Bates King Day offers 'Old Roots, New Struggles' theme
The Rev. Lawrence Edward Carter Sr., Morehouse College professor of religion, is the keynote speaker for the 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances at Bates College. Classes at the college are canceled and special programming is scheduled throughout the day with an emphasis on the theme Modernizing King: Old Roots, New Struggles.
Scheduled for 10:45 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21, in the Bates College Chapel, Carter’s address is part of a celebration of King’s life and work that includes performances, art exhibitions, workshops and orations. All events are open to the public free of charge. For more information, call 207-786-6400 or see a complete list of events scheduled for Martin Luther King Day.
Chaired by Charles Nero, associate professor of rhetoric, African American and American cultural studies, the Bates committee that organizes the annual observance of King’s birthday chose Modernizing King: Old Roots, New Struggles as its theme. Nero explains the thinking behind the choice:
“This year’s process represents a break with the past, when we selected themes based upon a quote by King. The committee decided to try something new, so several committee members brought ideas and themes. Tonya Taylor, Bates Class of 2002 and the program coordinator for the Multicultural Center, contributed the one that resonated with all of us. She wanted us to think about King’s relevance to today as well as to remove him from a continual association with death,” Nero says.
“We were all thrilled by Ms. Taylor’s proposed theme and her rationale,” Nero continues. “Thus, this year we want to explore, through workshops, presentations, debates, performances and artwork, Dr. King’s ongoing relevance to successive generations, including the impact of his principles of social justice upon coalitions, identities and struggles he did not imagine in his lifetime.”
The King Day observance begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, with a memorial service for Amadou Cissé ’01, a graduate student at the University of Chicago who died last fall. Sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Multifaith Chaplaincy, the service will be held in the Bates College Chapel, College Street.
The observance continues at 6 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 20, with an opening reception for an MLK Day Committee-commissioned art exhibition by first-year students Clyde Bango of Harare, Zimbabwe, and Uriel Gonzalez of Von Ormy, Texas, in Chase Hall Gallery, 56 Campus Ave.
The eve of the holiday features a memorial service of worship in the College Chapel, College Street, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20. The Rev. Marshall Elijah Hatch P ’10 of Chicago, recipient of the 2006 Weston Howland Jr. Award for Distinguished National Leadership based on his community work addressing issues of drugs, violence and poverty, delivers the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Memorial Service of Worship sermon. The service includes musical performances by Bates students, including a solo by first-year vocalist Megan Guynes of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Following the service, the Multifaith Chaplaincy hosts an 8:30 p.m. reception with Hatch at the Multicultural Center, 63 Campus Ave.
Student debaters from Bates and Morehouse colleges kick off King Day itself with an oratorical event, Minutes and Words of Eternity: The Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays Speech Invitational.
The debaters will be introduced at 9 a.m. in Chase Hall Lounge, 56 Campus Ave. The debaters will argue the topic, “This house would require that electronic waste be disposed of in the nations that produce it” at 9:30 a.m. The match has historic resonance for the schools, which share a continuing commitment to collaborative projects. The nation’s largest liberal arts college for men, Morehouse was Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater. One of its longtime presidents was 1920 Bates graduate and accomplished debater Benjamin Mays, a lifelong adviser to the great civil rights leader. Mays eulogized King in 1968.
Mays, who served for 27 years as president of Morehouse and was the first African American chairman of the Atlanta School Board, inspired generations of civil rights leaders with both his words and actions. King called Mays “my spiritual mentor and my intellectual father,” says Katherine Stefko, director of archives and special collections for the Edmund S. Muskie Archives, who prepared the display in consultation with Associate Professor of History Hilmar Jensen. An exhibit in the lobby of Ladd Library celebrates Mays’ life, his long-time connection with Bates, and his many contributions, both direct and indirect, to the public and political struggle for civil rights, Stefko says. The exhibition will be on display through the month of May.
Carter delivers his 10:45 a.m. keynote address in the Bates Chapel. The keynote address will be prefaced at 10:30 a.m. with music by the Bates Jazz Band. A Morehouse professor of religion and an instructor at the Morehouse Medical School’s Master of Public Health Program, Carter also serves as the college archivist and curator. The first dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse since 1979, Carter has honored the life of King and devoted considerable time traveling the globe as an advocate for peace and nonviolence.
In 1985, Carter founded the Morehouse College International Hall of Honor, which consists of 131 original oil portraits of distinguished leaders in the civil and human rights movements, including King, Mays, Mahatma Gandhi, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Thurgood Marshall. Carter also founded the college’s Gandhi Institute for Reconciliation in 2000.
Born in Dawson, Ga., and reared in Columbus, Ohio, Carter received his bachelor’s degree from Virginia University of Lynchburg, followed by his master’s in theology, his S.T.M. in pastoral care and his doctorate all from Boston University. He completed further study at Andover Newton Theological School, the Ohio University, Harvard University and Georgia State University, New York University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Brown University, Spelman College and George Washington University. A licensed and ordained Baptist minister, Carter was named a 1994 Fulbright Scholar and a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow in 1993 and 1996. He is the recipient of and administrator for numerous budgets, fellowships, gifts, grants and endowments.
From 1996 through 2002, Carter visited Bates each summer to lead a seminar at the college’s Benjamin Elijah Mays Institute. A widely published author on the psychology of religion, religion and ethics and the life of Gandhi and King, Carter is the author of several works about Mays, including Walking Integrity: Benjamin Elijah Mays as Mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. (Mercer University Press, 1998).
Concurrent Monday afternoon workshops hosted by various academic departments and student organizations begin at 1:20, 2:35 and 4 p.m. in classrooms throughout Pettengill and Dana Chemistry halls. The workshops, featuring speakers, films and discussion, will focus on various topics tied to the day’s theme Modernizing King: Old Roots, New Struggles. Topics range from diversity at Bates, in a panel discussion led by President Elaine Tuttle Hansen, to the spoken word and the Harlem Renaissance, from music, technology and black emancipation to King’s link to race, class and the hip hop generation. For more information about the workshops, call 207-786-6400 or see a complete listing.
The entire King Day observance concludes with a performance in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. Bates students commissioned to create cultural work for the occasion present music, dance and spoken-word pieces. The evening features senior Greg Waters of London, England, jazz; juniors Kevin Chambers, of East Orange, N.J., and Shawki White of Danville, Ill., hip hop/rap; senior Alissa Horowitz, of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., dance; and Sulo Dissanayake ’09, dramatic performance.
The college also co-sponsors an annual MLK Day Read-In where faculty, staff, students and members of the community will share a picture book with Martel School students in grades 4-6 at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 23. Those interested in volunteering should call 207-786-8351. (The snow date for this event is Wednesday, Jan. 30.)