An actor, a doctor, a professor, a community organizer, a hip-pop artist – these are just some of the many people coming to the University’s 16th annual, seven-week-long celebration called the Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium, which kicked off last Friday.

Paul Wong
Columbia University history Prof. Charles Armstrong is reflected in a piano as he delivers a lecture titled “The Cultural Cold War in Korea” at the International Institute.

This year’s theme for the symposium, “we must be the change we wish to see in the world,” is a statement by Mahatma Gandhi, whose nonviolent resistance to British rule in India greatly impacted King.

Grace Lee Boggs, the keynote speaker and community activist from Detroit, will speak at the Rackham Auditorium this Monday, and Rajmahan Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, will speak later that day at the School of Education.

On the last day of the symposium, February 18, 2003, B.D. Wong, a Tony Award-winning actor who starred in the Broadway play M. Butterfly, will share his life story as an Asian-American actor. Forty-five more events are planned between today and the last day of the symposium.

“These are people who have made life commitments to making this society better. The message to the students is that they have to be part of the change they want,” said John Matlock, director of the Office of Academic Multicultral Initiatives.

“MLK Day is a day that helps us to understand the issues that MLK fought for. A lot of things MLK fought for are relevant today, especially with the affirmative action,” LSA junior Olivia McCormick Martin said.

“The point of MLK Day for students is to engage themselves and to stretch themselves intellectually,” LSA junior Abdul Lediju said.

But MLK Day isn’t a day of intellectual enrichment and reflection of King’s work for all students.

Yesterday morning, fliers that read “Martin Luther King Cobra Party -‘You don’t have to go to school Monday SO, come out and Celebrate!'” with a drawing of King holding a bottle labeled “King Cobra” were posted on the walls of Haven Hall and the Union.

“I think it’s degrading and disrespectful. It shows where some people’s mindsets are,” said Lediju, who added that he personally tore down some of the fliers from the glass wall in Haven Hall.

Other students said thy were unaware that a symposium even exists.

“I am planning to go home to take advantage of the three-day weekend. I didn’t even know there was a symposium,” said LSA freshman Alex Dengel.

Other MLK Day Symposium events include a live concert by a local hip-pop band from Detroit Sunday night, a theater workshop by Janet Shier and Gayle Martin in East Quad Residence Hall on Jan. 24, and a lecture titled “Cowboy Bush and Indians: Frontier Mentality and Mother Earth” by Tom Goldtooth on Jan. 29, 2003.

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