Denison Plans Multiple Campus Events Honoring Work of Martin Luther King Jr.
Posted: January 17, 2005
Denison University will begin its spring semester classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and plans its observance events starting later in the week. The theme for this year's homage to the slain civil rights leader is "A Force more powerful," taken from the same-titled documentary about the "Freedom Summer" of 1964 and the efforts of civil rights workers trained at Ohio's Miami University.
On Thursday (Jan. 20), a poetry slam leads off the celebration events at noon in Slayter Hall's first floor dining area and again at 7 p.m. in The Roost on the third floor of Slayter. Students, faculty and staff are invited to read their own or another author's works. Both sessions are free and open to the public.
A banquet for invited guests is set for Saturday evening. Professor Richard Momeyer of Miami University is the featured speaker. Momeyer was among the young activists who helped train volunteers in nonviolent self-defense in 1964 at Oxford during the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. A graduate of Allegheny College, Momeyer served as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He later went on to earn graduate degrees at the University of Chicago and the University of Washington and now teaches philosophy at Miami.
The Rev. James M. Lawson Jr. is the speaker at Denison's 2005 Martin Luther King Jr. All-College Convocation set for 8 p.m. on Sunday (Jan. 23) in Swasey Chapel. The convocation is free and open to the public. The Gospel Choir will perform at the convocation and Chaplain Mark Orten will give opening remarks. President Dale T. Knobel will present awards to faculty, student, staff and community leaders. Those being recognized are: Professor Desmond Hamlet, holder of the Lorena Woodrow Burke Chair of English; junior Kristina Bethea, a sociology/anthropology and Black studies double major; Associate Director of Admissions Nancy Gibson, coordinator of student of color recruitment for Denison; Academic Secretary Donna E. Ellis, a member of the King commemoration committees for the past five years; and Sara Wiper Sharp, director of the Senior High Youth Ministry program at's First Presbyterian Church.
Lawson served as a pastor for the United Methodist Church for 55 years before retiring in 1999 from Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles. He also served in Nashville and Memphis, where in 1968 he chaired the strategy committee of the Memphis garbage worker's strike. Highly acclaimed for his involvement in the civil rights movement, King Jr. called Lawson "the leading nonviolence theorist in the world." Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta calls him "the architect" of the nonviolence movement.
Lawson currently is president of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE). The organization is an interfaith model seeking a living wage for all working families. He also is president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles and a member of the boards of the ACLU in Los Angeles, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights and the Interfaith Communities United for Peace and Justice.
On Monday (Jan. 24) classes are cancelled and a midday luncheon and program is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. at the Mitchell Center. The Keynote Performance features M'zuri, singer and actress, in "The Life and Times of Fannie Lou Hamer." Both the luncheon and activities are free and open to the public. While people gather, Tom Carroll, jazz guitarist and music department faculty member, will play with students and other faculty members. Vincent Briley, Denison's director of multicultural student affairs, and Jared Roper will also perform. Lisa Scott, director of affirmative action and diversity programs at Denison, will serve as host for the luncheon program; Kristina Bethea is the mistress of ceremonies; and President Knobel will welcome guests and recognize the leadership award winners and other honorees.
Fannie Lou Hamer was brought up on a sharecropper plantation in abject poverty, was crippled by polio, and did not have a formal education beyond the sixth grade. Despite all that, she was instrumental in the civil rights movement in the 1960s -- challenging the system and running for Congress. M'zuri's portrayal of Hamer in poetry, prose and song tells of the abuses that "colored" people suffered under the "Jim Crow" laws of the south and of the life-threatening beating in a Winona jail cell that Hamer survived. M'zuri becomes Hamer and brings to the stage the tragedy and triumph of a woman who was down to earth but larger than life.
CALENDAR LISTING: Denison University, Granville -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day Poetry Slam, Thursday (Jan. 20) -- at noon, Slayter Hall first floor; and at 7 p.m., Slayter Hall third floor. Free and open to the public. Call 740-587-6605 to confirm information.
CALENDAR LISTING: Denison University, Granville -- Convocation honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2005 featuring the Rev. James M. Lawson Jr.; 8 p.m., Sunday (Jan. 23), Swasey Chapel. Free and open to the public. Call 740-587-6605 to confirm information.
CALENDAR LISTING: Denison University, Granville -- Luncheon Program honoring Martin Luther Kings Jr. Day 2005 featuring performance by M'zuri in "The Life and Times of Fannie Lou Hamer," 11:30 a.m., Monday (Jan. 24), Mitchell Center. Free and open to the public. Call 740-587-6605 to confirm information.
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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