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The Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Series was established in 1985 at Vanderbilt University as a celebration of the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorating Rev. Dr. King’s life and legacy, the University community will gather together on this national holiday for a series of programs including: participation in the city-wide march, community service, educational forums and lectures. In honoring Rev. Dr. King, Vanderbilt University affirms its own commitment to the goals of peace and racial justice to which Rev. Dr. King dedicated his life.

VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MLK COMMEMORATION
MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 2018

Justice Through Collective Action: Fighting Oppression without Suppression

We are in an agonizing national crisis because a complex of profound problems has intersected in an explosive mixture. . . .If we look honestly at the realities of our national life, it is clear that we are not marching forward; we are groping and stumbling; we are divided and confused. Our moral values and spiritual confidence sink. . . . It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws—racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. (MLK Jr., Testament of Hope, 315).

Come and explore with us the ramifications of a society which values free speech, collective action, and civil disobedience, while grappling with the ever-increasing platforms which allow for hateful rhetoric and even violence inciting messaging.  How do we fight oppression without suppressing free speech?

Among the topics to be discussed during our Commemoration:

  • Monuments, Public Memory and Cultural Amnesia
  • The Politics of Natural Disaster Relief Response
  • Arts and Activism
  • Freedom of Expression and Suppression of Speech
  • Housing, Gentrification, and Transportation in Nashville
Keynote Address by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson – who is an American Book Award recipient and two-time NAACP Image Award winner – is one of the nation’s most influential and renowned public intellectuals. He has been named one of the 150 most powerful African Americans by Ebony magazine. The Philadelphia Weekly contends that Dr. Dyson “is reshaping what it means to be a public intellectual by becoming the most visible black academic of his time.”

Dr. Dyson’s pioneering scholarship has had a profound effect on American ideas. His first book, 1993’s Reflecting Black: African American Cultural Criticism helped establish the field of black American cultural studies. His next book, 1994’s Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X, was named one of the most important African American books of the 20th century. Dr. Dyson’s first book on Martin Luther King, 2000’s I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr., made a significant contribution to King scholarship by recovering the radical legacy of the slain civil rights leader. According to book industry bible Publisher’s Weekly, his 2001 book, Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur, helped to make books on hip-hop commercially viable. His 2006 book Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster was the first major book on Katrina and probed the racial and class fallout from the storm. His book, The New York Times best-selling April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Death and How It Changed America, has been hailed by The Washington Post as “an excellent sociological primer on institutionalized racism in America.” His most recent book, Can You Hear Me Now? The Inspiration, Wisdom, and Insight of Michael Eric Dyson, offers a sampling of his sharp wit, profound thought, and edifying eloquence on the enduring problems of humanity, from love to justice, and the latest topics of the day, including race and the presidency. It is both revealing and relevant, and at once thoughtful provoking and uplifting.

Not only has Dr. Dyson taught at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities – including Brown, Chapel Hill, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania – but his influence has carried far beyond the academy into prisons and bookstores, political conventions and union halls, and church sanctuaries and lecture stages across the world.

Dr. Dyson has appeared on nearly every major media outlet, including The Today Show, Nightline, O’Reilly Factor, The Tavis Smiley Show, and Real Time with Bill Maher – and he has cemented his star appeal on such shows as Rap City, Def Poetry Jam, and The Colbert Report. He is also a contributing editor of Time magazine. In addition, he hosts an hour-long news and talk program on NPR, “The Michael Eric Dyson Show,” where he delivers thoughtful analysis of today’s biggest stories from pop culture to race relations.

His powerful work has won him legions of admirers and has made him what The Washington Post terms a “superstar professor.” His fearless and fiery oratory led the Chronicle of Higher Education to declare that with his rhetorical gifts he “can rock classroom and chapel alike.” Dr. Dyson’s eloquent writing inspired Vanity Fair magazine to describe him as “one of the most graceful and lucid intellectuals writing on race and politics today.”

Dr. Dyson is presently University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University where, in 2011, he received widespread attention for his course “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z.” His legendary rise – from welfare father to Princeton Ph.D., from church pastor to college professor, from a factory worker who didn’t start college until he was 21 to a figure who has become what writer Naomi Wolf terms “the ideal public intellectual of our time” – may help explain why author Nathan McCall simply calls him “a street fighter in suit and tie.”