WMU News

Writer and political activist headlines MLK event

Jan. 8, 2004

KALAMAZOO--A noted essayist and cultural critic will headline the 2004 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 11, in Miller Auditorium at Western Michigan University.

Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo's Northside Ministerial Alliance will present the event, which is designed as a communitywide celebration. This is the second time the University and community organization have joined forces to plan the event that honors the life and legacy of the famed civil rights leader. In prior years, each organization planned its own effort, staging separate celebrations on different days.

Keynote speaker Kevin Powell, a noted essayist, cultural critic, author and social activist, will offer his perspective on King and will address how his words of more than three decades ago remain relevant today.

"When we look at the life and times of people like Dr. King, and when you listen to and watch his sermons, you come to think, 'How did he take that walk? How did he deal with the moral crises of this country?'" says Powell. "Dr. King said in 1967 that this country needed a radical revolution of values, and we still need that today."

Powell, a founding staff member and former senior editor for Vibe Magazine, was an original cast member of MTV's 'Real Word' reality show. An expert on hip-hop culture, Powell's writing also extends to racism, sexism, politics and youth activism. He has written for Newsweek, The Washington Post, Essence, Code and Rolling Stone. He also is the author of six books, including the 2003 release "Who's Gonna Take the Weight? Manhood, Race and Power in America."

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Powell replaces formerly announced speaker Michael Eric Dyson, who withdrew from the event for health reasons. Powell also will speak at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 10, at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. His discussion with area high school and college youth is free and open to the public.

The theme for Sunday's MLK event, which also is free and open to the public, is "Reflecting the Faces of Change: Courage, Character and Collaboration."

It is more than a catchphrase for a once-a-year celebration, however, says Deveta Gardner, chairperson of the WMU's Martin Luther King Jr. Committee.

"Anyone and everyone who is interested in promoting social justices and making our community a better place to live has the potential to effect positive change," says Gardner. "That's what Dr. King lived and died for, and that is what this celebration is all about. All too often we think about King Day as simply that: one day out of a year. But it's just the opposite. What we honor and embrace during this event is largely about how we will spend the other 364 days we are given each year."

Organizers have been working for more than seven months to plan the jointly sponsored program that examines King's vision in a variety of ways.

The lineup will include a litany reading, performances by the MLK Celebration Choir and the WMU Department of Dance, special presentations and remarks by WMU Trustee Vernice Anthony and WMU Provost Dr. Daniel M. Litynski.

Also scheduled to speak is Pastor J. Louis Felton, president of the Northside Ministerial Alliance, who has been among the organizers working for more than seven months to plan the program.

"We have learned that the celebration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as his life and legacy, requires a perennial effort, and not just an annual event," says Felton. "The MLK committee has never ceased to plan, cooperate and communicate since our celebration last year. We expect our 2004 event be a catalyst for continuing dialogue and trust in every segment of our community."

WMU's 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 to plan its MLK celebration, is an ecumenical body that strives to combat ignorance and apathy through education and grants to nonprofit organizations.

Western Michigan University is also sponsoring King-inspired events slated throughout January. Additional information about these events is available online at <www.wmich.edu/mlkday> and in WMU News.

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Series of programs, lectures planned to honor MLK

Media contact: Gail Towns, 269 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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