January 12, 2004

King Week celebration now in its 20th year

By Eric Rangus

Emory’s observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 19, kicks off the University’s 20th annual King Week celebration. Following a semester of tense feelings about race on campus, King Week perhaps comes at exactly the right time for attitudes to begin anew.

“King Week happens at this time every year, and it always seems like a kind of healing week on campus,” said Cynthia Shaw, who has chaired the event’s planning committee since 1991. “There can be a kind of reconciliation, because that’s what King was all about. I think [this week’s] coming after a tense and contentious time in Emory’s recent history is a good thing.”

From Jan. 19, when Emory volunteers will plant trees in the King Historic District, to Sunday, Jan. 25, when Joseph Lowery, co-founder with King of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, preaches at an 11:15 a.m. service, a full slate of academic, artistic and worship activities will center around the life of the civil rights leader.

“We try to reflect the ‘regularness’ of the man,” said Shaw, noting that few universities around the country have a full week of activities honoring King and that Emory’s celebration has been cited nationally for its depth and breadth. “He was interested in jazz and dance, but he was also a scholar, so we have many scholarly activities as well.”

Delivering the King Week keynote address, Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 7:30 p.m. in Woodruff Library’s Jones Room, will be activist and author Elaine Brown.

The only woman to head the Black Panther Party, Brown’s most recent book, 2002’s New Age Racism and the Condemnation of “Little B,” is an exploration of the case of Michael “Little B” Lewis, an Atlanta teenager sentenced to life in prison at the age of 14 for a murder Brown claims he did not commit. Brown also will appear earlier that afternoon at the informal King Week chapel tea at 4:30 p.m. in Cannon Chapel.

Another highlight is the ninth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards, to be presented in the Goizueta Business School Auditorium, Thursday, Jan. 22, at 4 p.m. The ceremony, “Lest We Forget: Building Community Through Unity, Service and Collective Responsibility,” will honor individuals, schools, educational programs, community organizations, agencies and businesses that exemplify commitment to social justice, celebrate diversity and are actively engaged in pursuits for building a better future.

A screening of the documentary The Intolerable Burden also takes place Jan. 22 at
4:30 p.m. in Jones Room. The film chronicles the experiences of eight African American brothers and sisters who were part of the first desegregated class in Drew, Miss.

Curtis Austin, assistant director of the Center for Oral History at the University of Southern Mississippi, called the film “one of the best video histories of the desegregation era ever produced. An excellent example of how documentaries on the 1960s should be done.”

Following the screening, the film’s producer, Constance Curry, will respond to a panel discussion consisting of Emory and Oxford faculty and students, several of whom have spent time in Drew.

The screening is just one new event on this year’s schedule. Author Stewart Burns will sign copies of his book To The Mountaintop: MLK’s Sacred Mission to Save America, Jan. 21 at noon in 207 Candler Library. On Jan. 23, “Words of Peace Echoing Around the World” will highlight readings from the writings of several human rights activists. The passages first will be delivered in the authors’ native languages then presented in English.

Returning activities include the forum, “Women Talking With Women: Women of Color and White Women in Dialogue,” Jan. 21 at 4 p.m. in the Women’s Center conference room, and the international student coffee hour panel discussion, Jan. 23 at 11:30 a.m. in Winship Ballroom.

Artistic offerings include a jazz vesper service featuring Dwight Andrews, associate professor of music; a gospel concert and birthday cake celebration; and a student tribute in song, dance and spoken word.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information about King Week, visit www.sph.emory.edu/AWARDS/kingweek.html.