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Northwestern Honors Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mavis Staples, Wayne Watson and Tim Wise are keynoters for full-day celebration.

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January 12, 2009 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- In recognition of the life and legacy of the late civil and human rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Northwestern University will present a variety of commemorative events, including lectures, service opportunities, discussions, film screenings, music and theatrical performances.

Northwestern will suspend classes Monday, Jan. 19, on both campuses for a University-wide, full-day observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday. (All other University operations will function that day.)

All of the Jan. 19 commemorative events, and all of the programs planned for the preceding week, are free and open to the public, with the exception of an Evanston campus career fair for Northwestern students and alumni only.

Legendary soul and gospel singer Mavis Staples will be the keynote performer at noon at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, on the Evanston campus. The program will include remarks by University administrators and campus leaders and feature additional musical performances by the Alice Millar Chapel Choir, Northwestern Community Ensemble and members of the University's Jazz Ensemble.

Free tickets for Northwestern University faculty, staff and students with valid WildCARD IDs (a limit of two per request) are available at the Norris University Center box office.

Free tickets for the Staples event for the general public (a limit of two tickets per request) are available at the Pick-Staiger Box Office. To reserve a ticket, call (847) 467-4000 or visit http://www.pickstaiger.com. Any remaining or unclaimed tickets will be available in the Pick-Staiger lobby 45-minutes prior to Staples' performance. If tickets are ordered online, there will be a surcharge. All ticket holders must be seated by 11:55 a.m.

Northwestern alumnus Wayne Watson, chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, former Northwestern trustee and current chair of the School of Education and Social Policy's board of advisors, will be the keynote speaker for the 7 p.m. Evanston campus commemoration -- the annual Alpha Phi Alpha Candlelight Vigil at Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road.

Author Tim Wise, one of the most prominent anti-racism writers and activists in the United States, will be the keynote speaker at the noon celebration on the Chicago campus that will be held at Thorne Auditorium in the Arthur Rubloff Building, 375 E. Chicago Ave. (No tickets are required.)

Staples is a more than 40-year veteran of the music scene, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and one of VH1's Greatest Women of Rock and Roll, both with her family group, the Staple Singers, and on her own as a solo recording artist. Her voice has influenced artists from Bob Dylan to Prince (who dubbed her "the epitome of soul"). She and her family began singing in Chicago churches and appearing on a weekly radio show. The Staples first big hit in 1956 was "Uncloudy Day" for the Vee-Jay label. Following her 1957 high school graduation, the Staples Singers took their music on the road. Led by family patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples and including Mavis and siblings Cleo, Yvonne and Pervis, the Staples were often referred to as "God's Greatest Hitmakers." By the mid-1960s, the Staples Singers, inspired by their close friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., became the spiritual and musical voices of the civil rights movement. Mavis Staples recorded her first solo album in 1969 for Stax and went on to achieve several Top 40 hits, including the #1 song "I'll Take You There." (For more information on Mavis Staples visit http://www.mavisstaples.com.)

As Chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, Watson has been profiled as an "agent of change." Appointed chancellor in 1998, he immediately began instituting the changes he saw were needed to achieve the excellence in education he wanted to bring to Chicago's diverse community. Prior to his appointment, he served as an associate professor of education at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. Flight lessons and pilot training led to two years as general manager of Wheeler Airlines, the first African American-owned company offering regularly scheduled flights. In 1978, he returned to Chicago, accepting a position at Malcolm X College. There, Watson was appointed vice president of instructional services, where he served from 1980 to 1983. Leaving Malcolm X, he was named vice president of the City Colleges of Chicago, where he remained until 1986. Watson went on to become president of both Harold Washington College and Kennedy-King College before moving to the chancellor's office. Watson earned three degrees from Northwestern -- a B.A. in education, an M.A. in education and sociology, and a Ph.D. in education administration. (For more information on Wayne D. Watson, visit http://www.waynedwatson.com.)

Wise is the author of "White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son" and "Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White." He has contributed essays to 17 books and is one of several persons featured in "White Man Challenging Racism: Thirty-Five Personal Stories." A collection of his essays, "Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male," was released in September 2008. (For more information on Tim Wise, visit http://www.speakoutnow.org/userdata_display.php?modin=50&uid=156.)

EVANSTON CAMPUS:

Highlights of other Evanston campus events include a Jan. 15 Block Cinema screening of the 2008 documentary "King in Chicago," the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Chicago Freedom Movement, followed by a question-and-answer session with Seth McClellan, the film's director and producer; a Jan. 17 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service by Northwestern University faculty, staff and student volunteers, in recognition of the community-building work done by Dr. King; and a Jan. 19 lecture by Patrick Washburn, a professor at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, on the role of the black press, with special focus on the Chicago Defender, titled "Soldiers Without Swords."

CHICAGO CAMPUS:

To maximize the amount of participation by Northwestern's School of Law and Feinberg School of Medicine faculty and administrators, the 2009 Chicago campus celebration will include a week of commemorative activities immediately preceding the Jan. 19 Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Both schools will host a series of lunchtime discussions based on the theme of "Race and Politics," titled the "Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture Series," with several panelists from Northwestern, as well as guest speakers. The weeklong series begins Monday, Jan. 12. All lectures will begin at noon in the Law School, Arthur Rubloff Building, Room 150, 375 E. Chicago Ave., and are free and open to the public.

A Jan. 15 Volunteer Fair also is part of The D.R.E.A.M. Committee's public service component of the 2009 Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. D.R.E.A.M. is the acronym for Day to Recognize the Efforts and Achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The organization of University administrators and students coordinates lectures and programs on the nationally observed birthday of Dr. King to inform faculty, staff and students on the Chicago campus on the teachings and contributions of Dr. King.

A Jan. 15 evening film screening of the 2008 Academy Award-winning HBO documentary, "Taxi to the Dark Side," an in-depth look at torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, will be followed by a discussion led by a Northwestern Law School professor.

For additional information on these and other events, visit Northwestern's Martin Luther King Jr. Web site at http://www.northwestern.edu/mlk/index.html or e-mail mlk@northwestern.edu.