MLK Jr. week will showcase minority issues

By Rebecca Shi

The University of Chicago community begins a weeklong celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy on Monday, January 10. Instead of a normal day-long commemoration, this year’s celebration includes many different events, ranging from the screening and discussion of critically acclaimed documentary Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin on Monday, January 10 to the traditional MLK Day Service featuring keynote speaker, Kweisi Mfume, on Monday January 17.

An event of this size is unprecedented in the celebration of King at the University, according to organizers. “This is something we have always wanted to do—design a celebration to honor the complexity of Dr. King’s legacy and from this celebration, to resonate the culture of his resolutions. A few hours would not be enough to accomplish this,” said Steve Klass, vice president of the University and dean of students.

This year’s celebration is coordinated by the Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA).

“MLK Living the Legacy” is the theme of next week’s celebration and, according to Klass and Linda Choi—special assistant to the dean of students in the University for diversity affairs, and co-chair of the MLK commemoration—the title could not be more appropriate. “This event is not possible without the collaboration of student organizations, faculty, staff, and administration from the college and the professional schools volunteering their time and resources,” said Choi.

The expanded celebration results from the planning of 50 University community members from a variety of groups and institutions including the Graduate School of Business, the Joseph Regenstein Library, and the Korean Student Association.

Publicity for next week’s celebration has also been extensive. In addition to the MLK website, posters, and an exhibit at the Reg, there have been three different university-wide e-mails. The first was a message from President Don Randel and Provost Richard Saller, who invited students to participate in next week’s activities.

“We see President Randel and Provost Saller emphasizing the importance of next week’s event as not only reflecting Dr. King’s principles but also the University’s as well,” said Klass. “More than anything else, it is the outpouring of support from individuals in the University who live in the spirit of Dr. King’s teachings and who eagerly share their generosity with the rest of the community that have been so thrilling.”

Some of the activities next week include a panel discussion Wednesday, led by Melissa Harris-Lacewell, assistant professor of political science, on the effect of King’s message of equality on minority groups such as women, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, gays, and lesbians. “It is essential for people to know that next week’s events focus on the struggle of minorities in general and not just African Americans. Participation and support from such an extensive and varied range of organizations reflect this,” Choi said.

The week-long commemoration culminates in the traditional Martin Luther King Jr. Day Service. This year, Kweisi Mfume, the former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), will deliver the keynote speech in commemoration of Dr. King on Monday, January 17.

While president, Mfume was commended for raising the standards and expectations of NAACP. He continues to serve as a consultant to the NAACP; a position he will hold until July. Mfume has served on the Baltimore city council, and spent a decade as a Maryland congressman, where he was the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Mfume also worked in broadcasting for 13 years and hosted the television show The Bottom Line for nine years. In 1997, he published his best-selling autobiography No Free Ride. Mfume’s speech will focus on this year’s celebration theme, “Living the Legacy.”

“We want everyone to attend any or all of the events next week. It is about celebrating diversity, celebrating University Community members, and seeing Dr. King’s teachings in action,” Choi said.