U-M celebrates King with former HUD director, author
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Former Clinton administration Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Henry Cisneros will be the keynote speaker and popular mystery writer Walter Mosley will offer the closing lecture in January when the University of Michigan celebrates the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
Cisneros, who served as the HUD leader for four years, will deliver the 18th annual MLK Memorial Lecture at 10 a.m. Jan. 17 in Hill Auditorium. His talk is entitled "Interwoven Destinies: America's Cities & the Nation's Future."
Mosley, best known for his mystery series that features an African American private detective named Easy Rawlins, will close the event 7 p.m. Jan. 31 at Rackham Auditorium with a lecture on "Bearing Witness." His talk will focus on how Sept. 11 has changed people for good and bad.
The theme for this year's MLK celebration is: "But we still have not learned the simple art of living together"—one that organizers say seems straightforward, but requires an explanation.
Silvia Carranza, program associate from the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives (OAMI), says the MLK committee wanted a multifaceted approach to this year's event. She says the theme came from a book King wrote in 1963 entitled "Strength to Love," in which he used Biblical examples to illustrate the importance of fighting for a cause—of being nonconformists in a world that calls for conformity.
"We felt it was vital to highlight his faith as the foundation for his philosophy regarding the civil rights movement. It was our goal to recognize that angle but not be exclusive about it, so we also incorporated a number of other themes," Carranza said. These include the concept behind the civil rights leader's Poor People's Campaign that he was gearing toward at the end of his life and recent elections that have left people feeling polarized.
"We searched for commentary that would encompass all of that," Carranza said. The Poor People's Campaign was King's plan for the second phase of the Civil Rights Movement intended to address economic inequality. It was not launched until after his assassination and was short lived.
"King represented so many things to so many people, so what you will see is a program that represents that plurality so well," said John Matlock, associate vice provost and director of OAMI. "At the same time, the theme says we still have a long way to go to realize King's vision."
Events will run throughout January and into the early part of February. Cisneros's speech is on the national holiday in recognition of King.
Cisneros was considered both successful and controversial in his approach to managing the nation's housing program. He received criticism as well as praise for the decision to tear down thousands of high-rise housing units in inner cities that he told the Washington Post in 1997 were the "setting for our children's urban nightmares."
He was credited with encouraging unprecedented growth in home ownership and reorganizing HUD, which included greatly reducing the size of the agency. Prior to taking the Clinton post in 1993, Cisneros served as mayor of San Antonio, Texas.
Author Mosley's first novel in the Easy Rawlins series, "Devil in a Blue Dress," won the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel from The Private Eye Writers of America. It was made into a movie staring Denzel Washington. Some other titles from the series include "A Red Death," "White Butterfly," "Black Betty," and "A Little Yellow Dog." The latter two were on the New York Times bestseller list.
Other highlights of the celebration include:
• "A Tribute to a King: We Have Not Yet Learned the Simple Art of Living Together," Jan. 10. Students have produced and are performing in the free musical and dramatic event to be held at 8 p.m. in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. The performance will depict civil rights events along a timeline from the 1960s to the present.
• Ronald K. Brown's "Come Ye." A modern dance performance in Brown's signature style of kinetic storytelling through a fusion of African, modern ballet and social dance styles, 6 p.m. Jan. 16 and 8 p.m. Jan. 17 at the Power Center.
• MLK Day Activities for Children and Youth, a program that is expanding this year. Musical performances, art activities, discussion workshops and more. 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Jan. 17, Modern Languages Building.
A complete list of events can be found at www.mlksymposium.umich.edu/forum/calendar.php
Contact: Laurel Thomas Gnagey