WMU News

Plans announced for 2004 MLK celebration

Sept. 23, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University and the Northside Ministerial Alliance will bring to Kalamazoo a nationally recognized minister and outspoken media commentator to offer the keynote address at their second joint Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

Officials today announced plans for the Sunday, Jan. 11, 2004, event, which will take place at 6 p.m. in Miller Auditorium on the WMU campus. The ecumenical program, which drew upward of 1,000 guests in 2003, represents one of Kalamazoo's signature MLK events. It is followed by a full slate of activities at the University and in the community, beginning with the federal observance of King's birthday Monday, Jan. 19.

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania, will be the keynote speaker for the event. The Detroit native is an ordained Baptist minister and author of several books, including "I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr.," "Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X," "Between God and Gangsta Rap" and "Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line."

From the New York Times and Vibe magazine readers to fans of National Public Radio and the former "Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher," Dyson has reached a broad audience with his provocative and sometimes controversial commentaries on race, gender, religion and other contemporary issues.

The jointly planned program marks the second year the two organizations have worked to host the communitywide MLK event. Organizers point to the continued partnership as an active way to promote King's vision of cultivating compassionate and viable communities.

"By working together, we are able to draw on the considerable strengths and resources of the University and the insight and activism of the Kalamazoo's religious leadership," said Deveta Gardner, chairwoman of the WMU Martin Luther King Jr. Committee. "As a direct result, we are able to offer an experience where Kalamazoo's residents can honor Dr. King's legacy and determine how his message of more than 35 years ago applies today.

"From the custodian to the college student, from the public servant to the company president, people from every walk of life can still learn from Dr. King's vision of equity and empowerment," she continued. "Each of us, in our own way, is called to make a lasting difference in our community and in the lives of those around us."

The 2004 theme, "Reflecting the Faces of Change: Courage, Character and Collaboration," embraces that ideal, said the Rev. J. Louis Felton, president of the Northside Ministerial Alliance and pastor of Galilee Missionary Baptist Church. The joint efforts of WMU and the alliance also exemplify the importance of meaningful teamwork, he said.

"This collaboration between WMU and the NMA is so important because our number one enemy in the world is ignorance," said Felton. "And if we can do serious battle with ignorance, there won't be as much war, hatred, racism, sexism, or discrimination. All of these problems have their roots in ignorance. By joining forces, the university community and community of faith have a tremendous arsenal with which to do serious harm to the evils of ignorance."

The Martin Luther King Jr. Committee is dedicated to furthering social justice by engaging in meaningful education, research and service initiatives, and by coordinating events throughout the WMU and Kalamazoo communities. The Northside Ministerial Alliance, which partners with leaders from the Jewish, Muslim and other faiths, is an ecumenical body that works to provide fellowship, ministry and a forum for discussing the issues congregations face. Its members also strive to combat ignorance and apathy through education and grants to nonprofit organizations.

Deveta Gardner and the Rev. J. Louis Felton are available for comment. To schedule an interview or for more information, contact Gail H. Towns at (269) 387-8428 or <gail.towns@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Gail H. Towns, 616 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
269 387-8400