On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court
told the nation that “separate is not equal” in the
landmark case Brown v. Board . Half a century later,
Brown is the theme of the 17th annual Reverend Martin Luther
King, Jr. Symposium. On Jan. 12, students had a chance to have
“A Conversation with the Brown Sisters” as the
symposium kick-off event, with guests Cheryl and Linda Brown. In an
effort to promote student involvement with diversity on campus,
organizers of the symposium opened the month-long commemoration of
MLK events with a student panel. LSA junior Paul Spurgeon was one
of the student panelists chosen by faculty and staff of the Office
of Academic Multicultural Initiatives. “I wanted to make the
connection between Brown v. Board and the University of
Michigan affirmative action case. Too often people misuse the civil
rights movement as an excuse to disregard the issue of
racism.” Spurgeon explains, “The spirit of Brown v.
Board
is within the affirmative action case.”

Janna Hutz

Organizers John Lim, an LSA junior, and Shruthi Sriram, an LSA
senior, explain that their vision for the panel discussion was to
address the lack of passion students have now when it comes to the
issue of racism. “Racism was a ’60s problem solved by
the movement. Students need to realize that racism is still a
problem on and off campus,” Lim states. Spurgeon affirms,
“Our generation and culture is sick with this me-ism.
It’s sad to say but I think that events like September 11th
shake things up, makes us step back, and allows us to see
what’s important.” Sriram further stresses involvement
by taking advantage of various community service and tutoring
opportunities on campus. She also says a contributing factor to the
lack of student empathy is that there is little pressure on
students to care. “They should offer more classes with
community service involvement,” Sriram suggests. She says
this would provide students with extra incentive to get out and
confront diversity and racism issues.

Panel discussions are not the only way students are hoping to
confront the issue of diversity. Students have organized a more
creative way to express their hopes and frustrations with diversity
through the U-Club Poetry Slam. The Slam’s theme of Brown
v. Board
will allow students freedom to exhibit their talents
while conveying their thoughts about the issue of racism. The Slam
seeks to entertain with an academic orientation. With Roger
Bonair-Agard as the featured poet for this event, organizers hope
to draw an even larger crowd to celebrate diversity. The microphone
is open to all students on a first-come, first-serve basis. The
first 10 will have a chance to perform their poetic piece, after
which they will each be given a rating. The slam is unique in that
it bonds the viewer with the poet without either of them actually
meeting. Through poetry, these students have a vision to connect
and celebrate their differences.

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