Civil rights pioneers to speak at 'U'

BY
BY KAREN SCHWARTZ
Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 12, 2004

Fifty years ago, the Rev. Oliver Brown joined the fight to
integrate schools after his daughter Linda was denied admission to
the local elementary school in Topeka, Kan. because she was black.
Today, Linda Brown Thompson and her sister Cheryl Brown Henderson
will tell their stories and discuss the implications of the
landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

The sisters kick off the University’s 17th annual Martin
Luther King Jr. Symposium with an event titled “A
Conversation with the Brown Sisters.” The event is designed
to get students directly involved, said Symposium Program
Coordinator Silvia Carranza. A student moderator and student
panelists will lead the discussion, and audience members will have
the opportunity to ask questions.

“The goal is to bridge the 50-year gap between students to
students, University of Michigan students to the Brown
sisters,” said Carranza, program associate for the Office of
Academic Multicultural Initiatives.

Brown’s lawsuit and related suits went before the U.S.
Supreme Court in 1952, and in 1954 the court overturned the 1896
Plessy v. Ferguson, “separate but equal” precedent. In
the Brown ruling, the court declared segregation in public schools
unconstitutional.

The theme of this year’s symposium, which continues into
February, is “Still Separate? Still Unequal? Brown v. Board
of Education 50 Years Later.” Events, which feature
everything from lectures to films and music to dance, will explore
possible answers to these and related questions.

“I think the biggest thing is that this year’s
symposium has more of a national focus in that we’re just one
of the many places commemorating the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court
decision that basically ended segregation in schools and as an
after-effect basically ended segregation, period,” Carranza
said.

Featured speakers include Arturo Rodriguez, president of United
Farm Workers of America, poet and activist John Trudell, and
Harvard law Prof. Lani Guiner, who will give the keynote address
Jan. 19.

Carranza added that she feels the symposium offers reflections
on King’s dream that cross boundaries, and a message of peace
and activism that is universal.

“There’s so many facets of the theme and so many
different target audiences that I think there’s really
something in there for everyone,” she said.

LSA senior Shyla Kinhal, one of the student staff members
helping to organize the dialogue with the Brown sisters, said she
hopes students take advantage of the opportunities available to
them as part of the symposium.

“The fact that our University offers a symposium like this
that no other university really has, I think it’s something
that we should all take advantage of, with these great speakers and
events — it’s kind of doing an injustice to ourselves
if we don’t take advantage of that,” she said.

“I guess in terms of this year, in terms of understanding
the connection between education and MLK’s ideals, I just
hope what people get out of this symposium is our personal
responsibility in understanding that connection,” she added.
“And understanding the privilege we have at this university
as students and what kind of role we have as college students in
our society.”

For Veronica Lopez, an LSA sophomore, the best part about
working on the MLK student staff was having the opportunity to
contribute to the project, working with students and faculty
members to develop and promote symposium events.

“Everyone in this office has been working very hard to
promote all of the events for the MLK symposium and I think to see
the outcome, the fruits of your labor, at hand, is just going to be
a good thing to see,” Lopez said.

 

of that,” she said.

“I guess in terms of this year, in terms of understanding
the connection between education and MLK’s ideals, I just
hope what people get out of this symposium is our personal
responsibility in understanding that connection,” she added.
“And understanding the privilege we have at this university
as students and what kind of role we have as college students in
our society.”

For Veronica Lopez, an LSA sophomore, the best part about
working on the MLK student staff was having the opportunity to
contribute to the project, working with students and faculty
members to develop and promote symposium events.

“Everyone in this office has been working very hard to
promote all of the events for the MLK symposium and I think to see
the outcome, the fruits of your labor, at hand, is just going to be
a good thing to see,” Lopez said.