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Engaging and Empowering Community


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week January 16-21, 2017

Speakers inspire audiences

Keynote speakers during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week urged campus audiences to have difficult conversations, learn from people who come from different backgrounds and be community leaders.

Kevin Powell kicked off the week's events with an address January 16 in the Fieldhouse. 

Powell said the signs posted along the route of the silent march reminded him of how young King was, and how much responsibility he held. "I believe as a student of Dr. King's that he would say the leadership you're looking for is right in the mirror," he said.

Kevin Powell at podium

Kevin Powell speaks to a crowd in the Fieldhouse.

Kimberlé Crenshaw

Kimberlé Crenshaw gives a keynote address.

He urged audience members to study history, read King's speeches and works, and learn from people who come from different backgrounds and cultures. Doing so, he said, would be steps to creating inclusive and diverse communities.

Noted civil rights scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw took a campus audience beyond the borders of race during the a presentation January 18 in the Kirkhof Center. Crenshaw is a professor of law at University of California Los Angeles and Columbia University. She coined two terms — critical race theory and intersectionality — that have proved foundational in many areas of study and organizational inclusion efforts. 

Crenshaw spoke about the catalyst for critical race theory, which came from a conflict between Harvard Law School administrators and students of color who pressured Harvard to hire faculty of color. Generally, critical race theory considers the intersection of power, race and law in its framework.

"Critical race theory came out of these difficult conversations," she said. Crenshaw said the protests of the 1960s that centered on access to lunch counters had shifted in the 1980s to institutions like Harvard. 

A Common Ground event on January 17 sponsored by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies drew 300 people to the Eberhard Center.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, from the New York Times Magazine, and Jason Riley, the Wall Street Journal, debated views on a number of topics that intersect with race, including educational policies and legacies from the civil rights movement. Their discussion was moderated by Kyle Caldwell, from the Johnson Center for Philanthropy.