‘From Selma to Ferguson: 50 Years of Nonviolent Dissent’ is MLK Day theme

Peniel Joseph, author and historian. (Tom Kates for Tufts University)

Peniel Joseph, author and historian. (Tom Kates for Tufts University)

In observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2015, Bates will examine the great civil rights leader’s commitment to nonviolent action — and place it in the context of recent events in Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island, N.Y., and on the international stage.

Beginning Sunday, Jan. 18, and continuing through the King Day holiday on Jan. 19, the Bates observance addresses the theme From Selma to Ferguson: 50 Years of Nonviolent Dissent.

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Bates students staged a die-in at Commons on Dec. 2, a way “to interest people and to get them to think,” in the words of one organizer, about the Michael Brown case. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Bates will explore historic and contemporary forms of nonviolent dissent in the U.S. and abroad. The events will fall broadly into three categories: past and present activism, activism in the arts, and activism and the interconnected world.

Taking place at various campus locations, MLK Day events at Bates are open to the public at no cost (but certain events require tickets; see below). For more information, please call 207-786-6400. See a complete program at: bates.edu/mlk.

Highlights from the Bates programming include:

  • the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Service, with an address by Najeeba Syeed-Miller, internationally known for her work in peacemaking (7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18, Gomes Chapel, 275 College St.);
  • an MLK Day keynote address by Tufts University historian and author Peniel Joseph, whose lecture is titled “Reimagining Martin Luther King Jr. in the Age of Obama and the Age of Ferguson” (9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 19, Gomes Chapel);
  • a rich schedule of workshops, described in more detail below, in concurrent sessions starting at 10:45 a.m. and 1 p.m. (see the online program for a complete listing with times and locations);
  • the annual Rev. Benjamin Elijah Mays ’20 Debate with students from Bates and Morehouse Colleges (3:15 p.m., Olin Arts Center Concert Hall; tickets required)
  • and the annual performance by the Bates student group Sankofa, this year presenting Black Voice: The Life of Evelyn Ola Johnson (7:30 p.m., Schaeffer Theatre, 329 College St.; tickets required).
More about 2015 MLK Day programming at Bates
Najeeba Syeed-Miller, internationally known for her work in peacemaking.

Najeeba Syeed-Miller, internationally known for her work in peacemaking.

Najeeba Syeed-Miller is assistant professor of interreligious education at Claremont School of Theology, and is the director of the Center for Global Peacebuilding. Her work as a peacemaker has made her a go-to adviser for state, federal and White House initiatives and in international conflicts.

Peniel E. Joseph is the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy and a professor of history at Tufts University. He founded the interdisciplinary subfield that he characterizes as Black Power studies.

A frequent national commentator on issues of race, civil rights and democracy, Joseph has written for The New York Times and historical journals, and has been featured on C-SPAN, NPR, MSNBC and other national media outlets.

He is the award-winning author of Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America; Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama; and this year’s Stokely: A Life, a biography of Black Power icon Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture), which the New York Times Book Review described as “insightful, highly engaging and fluently written.”

Bates student performers in the organization Sankofa answer questions from the audience following their performance during the evening of Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2014. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Bates student performers in the organization Sankofa answer questions from the audience following their performance during the evening of Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2014. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

MLK Day Workshops: Featuring Syeed-Miller, Joseph and other guest scholars along with Bates faculty, staff and students, the workshop schedule is jammed with sessions. Here’s just a quick sampling from across the range of topics: tools for nonviolent communication with adversaries; an experiment using texting to overcome a reluctance to discuss hot-button social justice issues;

Also, a reading by Bates people including President Clayton Spencer of their own writings or historic texts honoring King’s work; a look at the role of athletics in protest and dissent; a review of recent challenges to the Voting Rights Act; and a panel discussion about events in Ferguson.

The Rev. Benjamin Elijah Mays ’20 Debate: The ever-popular debate with Morehouse and Bates students honors the Rev. Mays, a Bates debater, longtime president of Morehouse College and pioneer of the civil rights movement. This year’s motion: “This House Believes that Violent Resistance to State Oppression is Justified.” Free, but tickets required; please visit bit.ly/mlk-debate-15 or call 207-786-6400.

The Evening Program featuring Sankofa: Founded by Bates students in 2010, Sankofa explores the history and diverse array of experience of the African diaspora through dance, music, theater and spoken word, and many other forms of art and expression.

Sankofa’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day production has become a symbol of pride and accomplishment for the African diaspora at Bates, and an educational and diversifying experience for the entire Bates community. This year, with Black Voice: The Life of Evelyn Ola Johnson, Sankofa explores black voice nationally and internationally in events linked by the theme of activism.

The featured performance takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 19, but as an alternative, an open dress rehearsal will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18. Both are free, but tickets are required; visit bit.ly/mlk-sankofa-dress-15 for the dress rehearsal and bit.ly/sankofa-15 for the Monday event, or call 207-786-8294 or 207-786-6400.

Exhibitions: Bates’ 2015 MLK Day programming includes two exhibitions. Paintings Related to the Civil Rights Movement comprises work by Camden artist Jonathan Frost. Created following Frost’s visits to historic civil rights sites in the South, the paintings illustrate key episodes from the movement, including a voting rights march by black teachers and, depicted moment-by-moment in an 18-image series, the police killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson. (Monday, Jan. 12 through Sunday, Feb. 22, Ladd Library, first floor)

Bates Students and Alumni in Action: A Story in Images documents marches and protests, on campus and across the country, in which Bates students and alumni have participated. Compiled by the Bates the Office of Intercultural Education, the exhibition reveals events and causes that have stirred Bates people then and now. (Sunday and Monday, Jan. 18-19, Pettengill Hall, Ground Floor Lobby)

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