After a land acknowledgement led by indigenous U-M students, introductory remarks from Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Tabbye Chavous, opening remarks from Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Laurie McCauley, and a musical performance from faculty at U-M’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, the keynote lectures were underway. LSA senior and Diversity Peer Educator Sharonda Chiangong introduced the speakers, whose individual biographies can be found here. Additional information about the opening ceremonies can be found in the event program.

Each of the lecturers related their work to the teachings of Dr. King. Dr. Aletha Maybank of the American Medical Association discussed racial health disparities, from pre-Civil Rights Movement discrimination to the present, where segregation, though less overt, exists to this day. Her final remarks questioned the audience: “What kind of change do you want to usher in…and how will you account for your time?” For Dr. Maybank, the answer lies in a quote from Dr. King, “Making injustice visible.” There is still work to do, and segregation in healthcare continues. Revolution and resistance, to Dr. Maybank, is about finding “joy,” “ justice,” and “rest.”

Filmmaker Edward Buckles, Jr. encouraged the audience to rethink Dr. King’s legacy, as well as other leaders like Malcolm X. Buckles argues they all had a common goal: “freedom from the ills of society, and justice for their people.” In his own life as a high school teacher in New Orleans, Buckles observed that the children of his home city were “sad, not bad.” These experiences inspired Buckles in the creation of his film, Katrina Babies, which investigates the traumas and disparaging effects of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina on communities of color. 

Jalen Rose, former basketball player and current sports analyst, author, documentary producer, and philanthropist, addressed the state of education and Dr. King’s role in its improvement. The Jalen Rose Leadership Academy was established in 2011 to address inequities in inner-city education. Rose wanted to be a “drum major for justice,” refusing to “shut up and dribble.” “The quality of your education,” he says, “should not be defined by your ZIP code.”

The speakers then engaged in conversation with CSS Director Dr. Earl Lewis, who discussed the speakers’ personal commitments to racial justice and their connection to Dr. King. In his introduction to the discussion, Dr. Lewis recalled a conversation with pastor, historian, and scholar Vincent Harding. Harding, Dr. Lewis said, “reminded me that King was a living, learning, evolving human being, who preached love, yes, but who envisioned a world not yet built, who bristled at injustice, craved for an end to militarism, understood the power of education, yearned for better health outcomes for all, and knew the haunting elements of poverty. The King Harding favored was a strategist, a truth-teller, and one not afraid of making others uncomfortable. We want to raise up that King on this day.”


Watch the full MLK Symposium Keynote Address:


Events in honor of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy continue throughout the next week. Learn more about upcoming events on the University’s Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives' website: