MLK 14 Series
RISD’s MLK 14 events, an annual series celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gets underway this Saturday with the opening of a moving exhibition featuring the work of photographer Richard Ross, along with a concert by the local Prism of Praise Community Gospel Choir and spoken work by Reza Rites. The series continues on Monday, January 20 – the national holiday dedicated to King’s memory and everything he stood for – as students and other members of the RISD community come together at the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Providence for the annual MLK Day of Service.
“The goal of the Martin Luther King, Jr. series, which has become a strong rallying point for the entire campus community, is to inspire people to take action,” notes Tony Johnson 93 SC, director of Intercultural Student Engagement and one of the key organizers behind the MLK events. “Everyone has talents and gifts to share, and we want to empower students with a personal sense of agency – to show them how they can make a difference.”
Each year the series culminates in a keynote lecture by a national figure who embodies King’s values and whose service and commitment to justice reinforces his many memorable contributions to the world. As this year’s featured speaker, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Marian Wright Edelman (see video below) will present the 2014 MLK keynote on Wednesday, January 29 in the RISD Auditorium. From her activism in the early days of the civil rights movement to her groundbreaking achievements as a woman – and a woman of color – to her political acumen and dogged determination to work tirelessly on behalf of children, she has created an extraordinary legacy of social activism and change, according to the planning committee behind this year’s MLK events.
A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman began her career in the mid-1960s when, as the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, MS. In 1968 she moved to Washington, DC as counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign that Dr. King began organizing before his death. There she founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and the parent body of the Children’s Defense Fund, which she launched in 1973.
“After more than 50 years of working to give voice to those without one, Mrs. Edelman clearly demonstrates the values at the heart of RISD’s annual MLK series,” Johnson says. “We look forward to hearing her unique perspective as she helps articulate the role visual artists can play in promoting equity and positive social change.”
Other highlights of this year’s MLK Series, which runs from January 18–29, include a workshop on Saturday, January 25 hosted by filmmaker/producer Shakti Butler, founder of World Trust. Designed to help deepen understanding of current conversations on race, the full-day session will provide a practical framework for deconstructing systemic racial inequalities and for creating and sustaining positive dialogue.