SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Martin Luther King Jr. Day is more than just a day off at Wittenberg University. Classes commence, but King’s memory is carried on through campus activities that honor his name and message.
Classes on that day are shortened, however, to make time for the 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Convocation at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 15, in Weaver Chapel. Michael Eric Dyson is the keynote speaker for the 2006-07 Wittenberg Series event, which is free and open to the public.
Dyson, an accomplished writer, ordained Baptist minister, and Avalon Foundation professor in the humanities and African American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, will present a speech titled “Dr. King for the 21st Century.” As an icon in the African American community, Dyson continues to educate the masses about hard-hitting issues through his books, television appearances and the eclecticism found in his subject matter. I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King Jr., Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line, Between God and Gangsta Rap and Why I Love Black Women are just a handful of the books that are a part of his authorial repertoire.
Dyson is the latest in a long line of distinguished speakers to make presentations at the event, including National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Chairman of the Board Julian Bond in 2004 and groundbreaking journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault in 2006. Since the inception of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Convocation in January 1990, the celebration has grown each year, incorporating new elements that have blossomed into a series of events that will be hosted during the days surrounding the commemorative ceremony.
A recent Dyson publication, Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has The Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind? will be at the center of a panel discussion titled “Poverty vs. Privilege in the Black Community” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, in Bayley Auditorium in the Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center. Moderated by Forest Wortham, director of multicultural student programs and WAGE Womyn’s Center, the panel consists of Carmiele Wilkerson, associate professor of English and director of Africana Studies; Miguel Martinez-Saenz, associate professor of philosophy; John Young, assistant dean of judicial affairs and political science instructor; and former Wittenberg faculty member Joseph Lewis, professor emeritus in history at Central State University. Panelists will discuss the ongoing debate between Dyson and Bill Cosby on the state of impoverished African Americans.
Beginning Friday, Jan. 12, posters depicting various moments in the American Civil Rights Movement will be displayed in academic buildings during the week following the King Convocation. The posters will provide a visual journey through the era that separated many but defined the future for all.
Commemorative marches in celebration of King’s famed march on Washington in 1963 are commonplace in America, but neither the Wittenberg nor Springfield communities celebrated in this fashion until last year. As part of the 2007 celebration, the second annual freedom march will take place at 8:30 a.m., beginning in the Springfield Art Museum parking lot and ending at Wittenberg’s Benham-Pence Student Center. Several speakers will address the crowd in the student center, and coffee and pastries will be served in the Gus Geil Lounge.
Decades after his assassination, King’s memory lives on in the hearts and minds of a growing nation. King once said “…as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back.” Just as the Wittenberg motto calls on its community members to pass their light to others, the Martin Luther King Commemorative Planning Committee has worked to help the campus community pass on the light of King’s message beyond the day designated for remembrance. The committee includes Wittenberg faculty, staff and students, led by Lillian Franklin, associate professor of languages.
Every year, the Wittenberg Series brings distinguished lecturers and performing artists of national and international prominence to the campus and local community. For more information about the Wittenberg Series, visit the university’s Web site at www.wittenberg.edu. To make special arrangements, reserve a series poster or become a friend of the Wittenberg Series, contact Phyllis Eberts at (937) 327-6116, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a complete list of events, visit the Martin Luther King Observance Web site established specifically for this annual event.
By: Erica Strauss ‘08