- Marlene Lacasse/Daily
By Stephanie Dilworth, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 15, 2013
An old-fashioned chorus of “Happy Birthday to You” echoed throughout the Lemuel Johnson Center on the fifth floor of Haven Hall Tuesday evening as a couple dozen University students and faculty members gathered on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to celebrate and discuss King’s ties to the University and Detroit.
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The event, The Making of the Dream: MLK, Detroit and U-M, was one of the first held as a part of the University’s 27th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium. It was sponsored by the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies.
Stephen Ward, assistant professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, moderated the event. He told audience members the symposium helps to enhance diversity on campus.
“My sense, as a faculty member here, is that the symposium represents the University’s growing commitment to racial diversity, to creating spaces for the University and surrounding community to engage in topics relating to diversity,” Ward said.
Audience members watched a video featuring University alum Larry Brilliant, former executive director of Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the search giant. The video described King’s visit to the University in 1962 and the impact the visit had on Brilliant, who is an advocate of the civil rights movement. As a part of a medical committee for human rights, Brilliant traveled with King to march against the Vietnam War.
Two audio clips were played of King speaking at the Great March in Detroit in 1963 and at the March on Washington two months later where he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Ward noted that Detroiters were proud that King identified his speech in Detroit as a major part of the civil rights movement.
Elizabeth James, a program associate of Afroamerican and African studies, said the audio recordings were an essential part of the event.
“We wanted to do something where we let Dr. King speak,” James said. “We wanted to hear his voice.”
Lumas Helaire, assistant director of the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, said he enjoyed listening to the slow style of speaking King used in his speeches.
“He is saying stuff that, especially during that time, a lot of people didn’t say,” Helaire said. “It worked to his advantage that he spoke so slowly because you get caught up in waiting for the next word.”
“Your brain gets a chance to process what he’s saying, and he brings you with him,” he added.
Audience members were later led around a room lined wall-to-wall with blown up black and white photos depicting Martin Luther King’s legacy and the other events of the civil rights movement. One wall was made up of photos taken while King was visiting the University in 1962.
Engineering freshman Dylan Kane said the photos gave him new insight into the events that occurred during the civil rights movement.
“It was interesting to see some new perspectives I’ve never seen before,” Kane said. “The professor was able to provide some close insight on exactly what was going on in those pictures.”