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2013 MLK Commemoration – January 21st

Posted by on Monday, January 21, 2013 in News.

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Vanderbilt University 2013

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemoration

The Presence of Justice: Bursting the Silent Bubbles

The Vanderbilt community celebrated MLK Day 2013 as a day of celebration and service. Classes were canceled and students participated in a number of service activities over the weekend leading into the Monday commemoration activities.

The celebration began the week before Dr. King’s holiday with a kick off event hosted by the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center. Friday and Saturday would be utilized as days for service projects, as students, staff and faculty come together to participate in over 30 different service projects ranging from working with “Room at the Inn” with the Vanderbilt College Republicans to volunteering at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital with the Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science.

Following the Weekend of Service, Vanderbilt prepared for a full day of commemorative events on Monday. Beginning early in the morning with a Freedom March in conjunction with Tennessee State University, our Chancellor Zeppos, Head Football Coach James Franklin and over 120 students rode together to the corner of 25th Ave and Jefferson St. to meet at Jefferson Street Baptist Church and begin the March. Our Commodores were joined by TSU and the Nashville Community as they marched to the TSU main campus.

Upon returning to campus, students were invited to enjoy Hot Chocolate and cookies while viewing the Presidential Inauguration. Following the Inauguration, the Commemoration continued with the Lunchtime Symposium. Rev. Joe Ingle gave a talk entitled “The Problem Of The 21st Century Is The Problem Of The Color Line” while everyone was treated to southern themed pizzas and salads catered by our new Rand resturaunt Pi & Leaf. Rev. Ingle’s most recent book, The Inferno; A Southern Morality Tale, tells the story of an unjustly condemned and executed man accused of the murder of a Memphis Police Officer.  Joining Rev. Ingle at the end of his talk was Ndume Olatashani, who himself was recently released from 28 years of incarceration.  He spent 20 of those years on death row.

After Mr. Olatashani inspired all with his words, he would welcome everyone over at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center with an art opening displaying his own artwork that he had created while in prison and has since continued his self-taught expression. Concurrently, students also were given the chance to go on the Nashville Freedom ride. Nashville Freedom Rider Kwame Lillard conducted a tour of significant sites in the civil rights movement in Nashville. Participants had lunch at one of two historic Nashville Restaurants; Harper’s or Puckett’s downtown location.  50 participants were selected at random for this continually packed event.

The 2013 Commemoration featured two dynamic Teach-Ins . In the Commons Center Multi-Purpose Room, “Living Wage” was moderated by Frank Wcislo, Dean of The Martha Ingram Commons and student director Sebastian Rogers. Inspired by Rogers’ documentary “Enough is Enough”, Vanderbilt students examined those taking a stand for the Vanderbilt Dining Workers. The discussion included students and dining workers as they discussed what working justice means to them.

In the Sarratt Cinema, “From Rosa Parks to Roc-A-Fella:  Black Bodies, Voices and Images In Hip Hop and Beyond” was moderated by Terrance Dean of the Vanderbilt Divinity School with Lori Read, Supervising Producer for Harpo Studios and Stephen Dent, Producer for Sean “P-Diddy” Combs. The panel explored how our images have been impacted in media vis-a-vie Hip Hop and the culture of social media. The powerful images of Rosa Parks, and those in the Civil Rights Movement, to the images displayed in Hip Hop and in other media outlets have drastically changed. This discussion took an in-depth look into how media impacts the Black community via television, film, print, and social media.  Do we need a new Dream, or is Dr. King’s Dream still relevant? How do we move forward? Can we impact media, and what needs to be done to change the negative stereotypes attributed to Black people?

The rest of the afternoon featured a discussion in the OACS lounge for participants in the Weekend of Service. The conversation explored the question of if Service is an act of Social Justice. At the BCC, an invitation dinner was held with our keynote speaker, Michelle Alexander. Local officials, clergy, VU Faculty and staff joined Ms. Alexander for a catered dinner as images from the Weekend of Service were shown. Welcomed by Provost Richard McCarthy, a short time of quiet conversation was shared before the main event of the day.

To conclude the day, the Commemoration concluded with its annual keynote event in Langford Auditorium. Beginning with musical performances by the Blair Chamber Choir and student groups Voices of Praise, Victory A Capella, and Jeremiah Generation. After, winners of the local high school and middle school essay contest reflecting on the life and legacy of Dr. King, read excerpts from their papers.

Welcomed by Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos, the day was recapped and an introduction by VSG President Maryclaire Maynard and Multicultural Leadership Council President Kiersten Chresfield began the keynote lecture. Vanderbilt Alumna Michelle Alexander spoke about her work “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar.  In recent years, she has taught at a number of universities, including Stanford Law School, where she was an associate professor of law and directed the Civil Rights Clinics.  In 2005, she won a Soros Justice Fellowship, which supported the writing of The New Jim Crow, and that same year she accepted a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University.  Since the publication of The New Jim Crow, the book has received rave reviews and has been featured in national radio and television media outlets, including MSNBC, NPR, The Bill Moyers Journal, the Tavis Smiley Show, C-Span, and Washington Journal, among others.  In March, the book won the 2011 NAACP Image Award for best nonfiction.

Following the sold out lecture and Q&A, a candlelight vigil was performed by members of the Vanderbilt Divinity School. Arranged by Dr. Dale Andrews, the vigil featured a small reflection with words and song. The Vigil offered an opportunity to reflect on the rich experiences of the day, to give thanks for the shining light Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. continues to have in our lives, and to look forward with hope as we light candles that illumine the darkness.

As the evening concluded, a reception and book signing in Light Hall with a jazz trio performing. Dr. Alexander stayed until the very last person had their book signed and graciously spoke with everyone who wanted a moment of her time.


About the Series

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Series was established in 1985 at Vanderbilt University as a celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honoring Dr. King, Vanderbilt University affirms its own commitment to the goals of peace and racial justice to which Dr. King dedicated his life.

For a full schedule of events this year and in past years, click here.