MLK Initiative to Honor Activist
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 23:11
Planning is underway for the 11th annual Let Freedom Ring Initiative, which will be held this January.
Based on the ideals championed in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which challenged southern clergymen who had asked him to stop advocating for civil rights and desegregation, the initiative will relate King’s activism to social justice at Georgetown.
“The theme for Georgetown is the notion of using social justice and other forms of action to give voice to many silent forms of injustice in our lives,” said Michael Smith, co-chair of the initiative and director of affirmative action programs at the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action.
The event will honor D.C. activist Mary Brown — who works to provide opportunities for local black youth — with the John Thompson, Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award, which was named for the former Georgetown men’s head basketball coach and honors people who fight for social justice.
Past recipients include basketball player Dikembe Mutombo (CAS ’91), speechwriter Clarence Jones and Children’s Defense Fund activist Marian Wright Edelman.
University President John J. DeGioia founded the Let Freedom Ring Initiative in 2003.
“DeGioia wanted members of the university community to celebrate the life and legacy of MLK in a more significant way than we had done in the past — engaging our neighbors in D.C. and our campus community in reflecting on his work and the ongoing work he inspired,” Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh said. “We've honored a range of international and national leaders in the past 10 years with the John Thompson, Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award.”
The initiative’s planning process began Nov. 8 with a committee meeting held in the Philodemic Room in Healy Hall. About 25 faculty, staff and students attended the meeting, the first of five spanning from now until January.
The committee is responsible for planning the celebration’s various events, which include a day of community service, a performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, an academic event, a spiritual service, a student, faculty and staff reflection event and a final performance event. Meeting attendees formed subcommittees to focus on each of these events.
The committee also talked about organizing a spoken word flash mob in Red Square to promote the event and to raise awareness about its “Letter from Birmingham Jail” theme.
“A lot of the stuff we plan will be based on the letter and what Dr. King wrote,” Hyun-Kyoo Jo (SFS ’13), a student who attended the meeting, said. “So, in Red Square, we were thinking about having people read off different parts of the letter out loud. It’s a way to get attention and to publicize both King’s writings and the events.”
The committee also finalized details for vocalist and songwriter Smokey Robinson, who will perform at the Kennedy Center. Past performers have included Aretha Franklin and Brian McKnight.
Britt Daniels (COL ’16), another student who attended the meeting, expressed surprise and disappointment at the low turnout at the meeting last week.
“Considering that the email about the committee meeting was a school-wide email, I was surprised that only around 25 people showed up,” Daniels said.
But Smith said that attendance of 20 to 40 people is typical for planning committee meetings. In addition, turnout for the planning committee meetings is not an indication of interest in the events. According to Smith, the Kennedy Center performance is always filled to capacity, and on-campus events average between 75 and 200 people.