Each academic year, the RISD community works together to host a series of special events honoring the life of and contributions made by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in creating a more just and democratic society. Through talks and workshops led by leading advocates for justice, the inspiring series provides members of the RISD community and the larger public with meaningful opportunities for service, reflection and personal development.

Roxane Gay | 2018 MLK keynote | Friday, March 2, 7 pm

photo by Jay Grabiec

Writing across a range of genres, Roxane Gay is an author and cultural critic whose reflective, no-holds-barred social criticism has brought her to the forefront of contemporary thought. Her collection of essays, Bad Feminist, is considered an essential exploration of modern feminism. National Public Radio named it one of the best books of the year and Salon declared the book “trailblazing.” Her debut novel, An Untamed State, was long-listed for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. In 2017, Gay released her highly anticipated memoir, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, as well as a collection of short stories titled Difficult Women.

An associate professor of English at Purdue University, Gay is also a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times. She has served as co-editor of PANK magazine and formerly was the nonfiction editor at The Rumpus. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Nation and many other publications. In writing the World of Wakanda series for Marvel Comics’ Black Panther universe, Gay became the first black woman ever to write a comic for Marvel.

Lee Mun Wah | MLK lecture | October 18–19, 2017

photo courtesy of StirFry Seminars & Consulting

Lee Mun Wah is an internationally renowned Chinese American documentary filmmaker, author, educator, community therapist and master diversity trainer. He is the current Executive Director of Stirfry Seminars & Consulting, a diversity training company that provides educational tools and workshops on issues of cross-cultural communication and awareness, mindful facilitation and conflict mediation techniques. Thousands of people from government and social service agencies, corporations, and educational institutions have taken Lee’s workshops and partnered with Stirfry on diversity initiatives. In 2011, Lee released the book Let’s Get Real—What People of Color Can’t Say & Whites Won’t Ask, and his 2014 documentary film If These Halls Could Talk investigates college students and their perspectives on race and racism.

Among Lee's films, Stolen Ground (his first film, made in 1993) won honorable mention at the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF), The Color of Fear won the SFIFF Gold Medal for Best Social Studies Documentary and Walking Each Other Home won the Cindy Competition Silver Medal for Social Science, also at SFIFF. In 2005 Lee directed and produced Last Chance for Eden, a three-part documentary on sexism and racism.

All 2017–18 MLK events


Wednesday, October 18 | An Unfinished Conversation: Diversity Conversations in the Classroom | faculty and staff dialogue and workshop with Lee Mun Wah, 8:30–11:30 am

Wednesday, October 18 | How to Have a Dialogue across Cultures | student dinner and dialogue with Lee Mun Wah, 5:00–6:30 pm

Wednesday, October 18 | Only a World Away! | MLK Series keynote lecture by Lee Mun Wah, 7:30–9:30 pm

Thursday, October 19 | If These Halls Could Talk | film screening and discussion with Lee Mun Wah, 8:30–10:30 am


Saturday, January 13 | MLK Celebration Dinner | community meal with a menu featuring Haitiain cuisine, Portfolio Café, 5–8 pm

Monday, January 15 | MLK Day of Service | community arts event at MLK Elementary School, 10 am–2 pm

Tuesday, January 16 | MLK Celebration Concert | an evening of artistry and spirit with Prism of Praise Community Gospel Choir and others, 7–9 pm

Friday, March 2 | An Evening with Roxane Gay | MLK Series keynote address, 7–9 pm

More about the MLK Series

The MLK keynote address serves as the centerpiece of the MLK Series and aims to highlight the role of creative endeavor in advancing democracy and equity. The lecture honors the vast contributions of Dr. King toward creating a more just and democratic society and acknowledges an individual whose legacy of service and commitment to justice has made an indelible difference.

Past MLK honorees and keynote speakers include artist, educator and human rights activist Emory Douglas (2017), ambassador and diplomat Andrew Young (2016), artist Faith Ringgold (2016), actor / humanitarian Danny Glover (2015), children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman (2014), artist / activist Harry Belafonte (2013), writer/activist Angela Davis (2012), nonviolence strategist Dr. Bernard Lafayette (2006), and scholar Bakari Kitwana (2005).

Watch previous keynote addresses

Emory Douglas | January 20, 2017

Ambassador Andrew Young | January 22, 2016

Tim Wise | October 19, 2015

Faith Ringgold | April 13, 2016

Danny Glover | January 30, 2015

Marian Wright Edelman | January 29, 2014

Harry Belafonte | January 29, 2013