Young to Address Justice

Young to Address Justice

Civil rights activist Andrew Young (second row, center) raising his voice at the historic march on Washington, DC in August 1963.

Former UN Ambassador, pastor and politician Andrew J. Young, Jr. has seen enormous changes since the 1960s, when he struggled alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement. But he says that there’s still a lot of work to do here in the US. On Friday, January 22, the celebrated policymaker and diplomat – who has devoted his life to eradicating poverty, racism and war – will deliver the keynote address in RISD’s 2015/16 MLK Series.

“We asked Ambassador Young to deliver the keynote this year because of his determined commitment and diverse approach to global justice, peace and the rights of all people,” notes Assistant Dean of Students Tony Johnson 93 SC. “He has transformed our society in positive ways, serving as a consummate ambassador of reconciliation and nonviolent social change.”

This academic year, RISD’s annual celebration honoring King’s legacy has been expanded into a yearlong series of events that began in October with multiple workshops and an engaging talk by noted author and activist Tim Wise (White Like Me, Under the Affluence). He spoke about how to begin uprooting white privilege in a society that has essentially been built upon it.

Artist, author and educator Faith Ringgold – who earned a Caldecott Honor for her 1991 children’s book Tar Beach – will visit RISD on April 13 as the final speaker in the 2015/16 series. In a talk called simply More than 60 Years, she will offer first-hand accounts of the civil rights movement that help contextualize the immense body of work she has created to advance the values of equity and democracy.

Students and other members of the RISD community are also invited to take part in a variety of celebratory events leading up to Young’s lecture. A community dinner promoting dialogue, reflection and peace will take place in Portfolio Café on Saturday, January 16, followed by a joyous mix of gospel music and spoken word from the Prism of Praise Community Choir in the Fleet Library at RISD.

In observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 18, the community will come together for RISD’s annual MLK Day of Service from 10:30 am–2:30 pm at Providence’s Martin Luther King, Jr. School, where volunteers from RISD will work on collaborative art projects with local children and have lunch together. The same day students will also participate in a project to benefit city youth at the Dorcas International House on Providence’s Southside.

The student organization RISD Leads and an MLK Committee of staff members have planned these events not only to honor King’s memory but also to continue RISD’s commitment to social justice, diversity and inclusion. “Our goal,” says Johnson, “is to inspire and empower students to answer the call for justice and to use their unique talents and privileges to make the world a better place for everyone.”

All MLK events are free and open to the public with advanced reservation. Reserve your seat online for Andrew Young’s 7 pm talk on January 22.

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