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Keynote speaker Loretta Ross to anchor the University of Chicago’s weeklong Martin Luther King Jr. celebration

Jan. 10, 2008

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” wrote Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. Those words will serve as the theme of the University’s annual weeklong celebration of King’s life, to be held from Saturday, Jan. 19 through Friday, Jan. 25.

“This year’s theme speaks to our commitment to address issues that affect multiple communities,” said Rosa Yadira Ortiz, Assistant Director of the Office of Mulicultural Student Affairs and Chair of the MLK 2008 Committee. “The celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life is one embedded with discussion of the civil rights movement and nostalgic memories of King’s ‘dream.’ As one of the few institutions that recognizes this day as a University holiday, we recognize its importance for both the University community as well as the Hyde Park and Chicagoland community at large.”

Loretta Ross, founder and national coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, will be the keynote speaker during King’s memorial service on Monday, Jan. 21 in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

Ross will speak about “Dr. King’s dream of bringing human rights home,” a message he conveyed in his last Sunday sermon, delivered on March 31, 1968 — just four days before he was assassinated.

“Dr. King called upon us to build a human rights movement in this country. I’ll talk about what that means,” Ross said. “People think of Dr. King as a civil rights leader, but he had a much broader vision that included human rights — rights to be treated as an equal.”

Ross, who co-founded and worked for the National Center for Human Rights Education from 1996 to 2004, categorized those rights as civil, political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, developmental and sexual.

“Everybody told me he had a dream,” Ross said of Rev. King. “No one told me he had a plan.”

At SisterSong, Ross’ foundation teaches women about “everything from HIV/AIDS … to pro-choice politics.” Ortiz noted that Ross “works tirelessly on behalf of reproductive rights for women.”

Of the weeklong celebration, Ortiz said, “Given Dr. King’s history of coalition work with other key leaders such as Cesar Chavez, we believe in creating events that are multi-issue and speak to the realities of various communities. This is highlighted by the multi-faceted events for this week.”

The weeklong celebration kicks off on Saturday, Jan. 19 with the UCSC MLK Day of Service. Anyone who would like to volunteer can contact the University Community Service Center through its Web site at or call (773) 753-GIVE (4483).

The University memorial service and keynote address featuring Loretta Ross is scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21 in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Following the service, a reception will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Cloister Club at Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St.

The Hyde Park Arts Center will present an evening of films about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21. Marlon Riggs’ Black Is, Black Ain’t will be screened as well as other documentaries. The center is at 5020 S. Cornell Ave.

Members of the faculty will gather for a panel discussion on the topic of the weeklong MLK theme: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere: Examining and Exposing the Continuing Violence and Discrimination of the 21st Century.” The panel will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22 in Room C25 of the Graduate School of Business, 5807 S. Woodlawn Ave.

Faculty panelists will discuss how various forms of violence in society continue to inflict injustice upon citizens. The panel discussants are:

Cathy Cohen, the David and Mary Winton Green Professor in Political Science and the College and Deputy Provost for Graduate Education; Craig Futterman, Clinical Professor in the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the Law School; Susan Gzesh, Senior Lecturer in the College and Director of the Human Rights Program; and Richard Hellie, the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor in History and the College.

The film Something the Lord Made will be shown from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 23, in Room 001 of the Biological Sciences Learning Center, 924 E, 57th St.

The film is set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and tells the story of two men who defied the rules of their time to launch a medical revolution. The film will be followed by a panel discussion, which medical school faculty members and students will lead. 

A panel discussion featuring University students will take place from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 in the south lounge of the Reynolds Club, 5706 S. University Ave. Students will share their off-campus service experiences, providing insights to others who are curious about volunteer work in the greater Chicago community.

Civil rights activist Angela Davis will present the annual Kent Lecture, sponsored by the Organization of Black Students. Her topic will be “How Does Change Happen?” The lecture will be presented from 7 to 9 p.m. in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 1156 E. 59th St., and will address the issue of America’s “unfinished work in the struggle for equality.” Davis will focus on the current state of democracy in America and the social challenges that remain for its multicultural citizens. The goal will be to open up a dialogue on how citizens of all races might make progress toward racial equality, working together from a strong political foundation.

Lost Boys of Sudan will be presented from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25 in the Lobby of the School of Social Service Administration, 969 E. 60th St. Members of the group Lost Boys Rebuilding Southern Sudan will share their experiences as orphaned boys who fled war-torn Sudan and survived hunger, dehydration, disease, attacks by wild animals, and living as refugees in Kakuma, Kenya. Now grown men, they exemplify the principles and spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through their courageous journey, refusal to accept injustice and an everlasting hope for a brighter future. They will tell the stories of their return to Sudan to rebuild it with new schools and community centers for their children. 

The Roots and Rhymes IV Multicultural Celebration will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25 in Hutchinson Commons, Reynolds Club, 5706 S. University Ave. This event will feature live music and campus performers and artists who will express their art through spoken word, song and dance.

From Tuesday, Jan. 15 through Friday, Feb. 15, the Joseph Regenstein Library will present an exhibition on King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, the source of this year’s theme for the University MLK celebration. The exhibition illustrates the historical context of 1963, the formal and informal transmission of the letter, its biblical and philosophical allusions, and its links to the University. More information about the exhibition at the library can be found at

Additional information and a complete schedule of Chicago’s MLK celebration is available at

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Last modified at 10:57 AM CST on Thursday, January 10, 2008

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