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January 13, 1995 - Image 3

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-01-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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The Michigan Daily Friday, January 13. 1995 -- 3
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Compiled by
Mona Qureshi
Daily News Editor

n 1988, the commemoration of a
federal holiday day took a turn.
While the University had spon
sored some events, students said
they would no longer take the day for
granted.
Some of those student activists and
their predecessors will be returning to
e University to discuss activism
onday. "Institutional change is not
an easy thing to do," MLK Day Sym-
posium Coordinator Michael Jones-
Coleman said. "I'm hoping those ac-
tivists from the past will share with us
the struggles that they had to fight."
"We really didn't have an MLK
Day when I started out (at the Univer-
sity)," reflected Detroit City Auditor
Roger Short, a student activist in the
70 Black Action Movement (BAM
-- which marked the beginning of
a 17-year series of movements de-
manding the University address the
needs of people of color.
Short, who earned his bachelor's
and master's degrees from the Univer-
sity between 1966 and 1972, said the
MLK Day symposia and issues of con-
cern have evolved. "MLK day wasn't
4 important as students matriculating
the University of Michigan," he said
of his days in Ann Arbor.
To students of the late 1980s-era
Ann Arbor, MLK Day was on their
list of demands.
When the day became a federal
holiday in 1986, students intensified
their request for a day off from classes
to commemorate King as part of de-
mands made during the third Black
tion Movement (BAM III) in 1987.
en a day fully dedicated to King
did not come in January 1988, 75
members of the United Coalition
Against Racism (UCAR) led a block-
ade of entrances to Angell, Mason
and Haven halls to boycott classes in
honor of King's birthday. "Racists
use the back door," protestors cried.
UCAR, also formed in 1987, as a
ulti-racial, multi-ethnic group to
ttle racism on campus.
Most students forged past the
blockade, often with physical and
verbal resistance. Almost 1,000 stu-
dents pledged not to attend classes,
UCAR steering committee member
Pam Nadasen said.
Eric Williams, who was an LSA
junior and UCAR member, told The
Michigan Daily at the time, "If you're
*pporting institutional racism here,
you're going to have to either go through
us or go around us."
UCAR sponsored a variety of sym-
posiums as an alternative to attending

said in a speech that MLK Day was
not just about civil rights for Blacks,
but for other racial and ethnic groups,
and for the disadvantaged classes.
During the second annual Unity
March, Ron Scott, a founder of the
Detroit chapter of the Black Panther
Party, said activism had not changed
since the 1960s. "We're still debating
the same questions," he said. "Some-
times I feel as though we are literally
watching a turning back of the clock."
1991 saw a new wave of activism
begin. Just days before the sympo-
sium, the United States and Iraq began
a full-fledged war. "If Martin Luther
King were alive today, he would be
against this war," said then-Vice Pro-
vost for Minority Affairs Charles
Moody, now director of the South Af-
rican Initiatives, as he opened the day.
Former executive director of the
NAACP and confidant of King, Ben-
jamin Hooks made his first MLK Day
appearance in 1992 as a fill-in for the
ill-struck ABC anchor Carole Simpson.
Also joining Hooks on the list of
speakers in 1992 were Kwanzaa
founder Maulana Karega and Detroit
Mayor Dennis Archer.
Controversy surrounded the 1993
symposium. The slating of Nation of
Islam Minister Khallid Muhammad pro-
voked demonstrations from the Jewish
and Muslim communities. Muhammad
never appeared, and a packed MLB
auditorium sighed with disappointment.
Actor Danny Glover came later
that evening, reciting a monologue
from Langston Hughes with Felix
Justice, who recited from King.
Last year's BSU boycott of Uni-
versity-sponsored activities marked
only the most recent battle students
have fought against the University in
the name of racial justice and activism.
In a statement published in the
Daily, the BSU said, "The 1994 King
Symposium does not honor the history
of activism out of which the sympo-
sium was created, nor does it seek to
focus on issues of social, political and
economic empowerment urgent to
African American, Native American,
Latino and Asian communities."
In its place, the BSU sponsored a
Teach-In called "Educate to Liberate!"
which was well-attended by its mem-
bers. The march drew 300 students
through the streets, a significantly
smaller number than in years prior.
The BSU has taken a more active
role in the symposium. President Nina
Smith is on the planning committee
and will moderate a panel on student
activism this year.

Black Student Union member Anthony Henderson delivers the final speech of the 1988 rally on the Diag.

class, addressing problems of women
and people of color.
At noon, 1,500 people marched
through the streets of Ann Arbor in
the first annual Unity March, singing
"We Shall Overcome" as they locked
arms. Wayne County Circuit Court
Judge Cynthia Stevens, who had been
a BAM I activist, spoke to marchers:
"One thing I never imagined was that
it would be necessary (to protest rac-
ism on campus) in 1988."
Later in the year, the University
administration decided to make Mar-
tin Luther King Day a symposium of
events in place of classes.
Organizers of the first University
MLK/Diversity Day bustled about the
campus on its eve. "I hope (the day)
will help to alleviate (problems of
racial strife on campus)," said then-
Provost and Vice President for Aca-
demic Affairs Charles Vest.
James J. Duderstadt, who had re-
cently become University president,
had just introduced the Michigan

Mandate - a pledge to increase mi-
nority students and faculty at the Uni-
versity. As a proponent for diversity
and student concerns, Duderstadt en-
couraged students to attend events.
But student leaders criticized the
University. Michigan Student Asembly
President Michael Phillips said, "The
people who need the education most
aren't going to go." He emphasized
the need for a mandatory class in race
and ethnicity - which became part of
the LSA curriculum in 1989.
The Black Student Union was not
pleased with the combination of the
word "diversity" with King's name to
mark the day. "For the University of
Michigan to not solely recognize Mar-
tin Luther King Jr. is to say that it is not
quite ready to fully recognize not only
one of the greatest social activists of our
time, but, particular to this case, and
American of African descent-a Black
man," the BSU said in a statement
published in the Daily.
UCAR steering committee mem-

Ron Scott,
of the
Black
Panthers,
speaks at
the 1990
MLK Rally.
FILE PHOTO

ber and Public Health graduate stu-
dent at the time David Fletcher said,
"It's rooted in a real concerted effort
to quiet the student struggle. It is a PR
campaign (and these types of cam-
paigns) rarely come to fruition."
With the University attracting na-
tional media attention for its efforts
toward diversity and in remembering
King, students had mixed feelings about
events. Longevity became the
buzzword. How long would these events

last and were they really effective?
In 1990, "Diversity" was dropped
and the day was simply termed "MLK
Day." Invited speakers included C6sar
Chavez, founder and president of the
United Farm Workers of America and
a Latino activist, and Rev. Dr. Joseph
Lowery, founder and president of the
Southern Leadership Conference.
While Lowery's keynote address
was canceled due to flight difficul-
ties, Chavez roused applause when he

Ex-NAACP director continues

By ZACHARY M. RAIMI
Daily Staff Reporter
Benjamin L. Hooks is a busy man these days.
He teaches, preaches and works as a businessman, but
he is taking time out of his busy schedule Monday to
deliver the keynote address at the University's Martin
Luther King Day Symposium.
Born in 1925 in Memphis, Tenn., the former executive
director of the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People (NAACP), the world's oldest and
largest civil-rights organization, plans to "give the stu-
Snts a sense of hope."
"In these years since Dr. King's death, I feel an
obligation to try and carry Dr. King's message wherever
and whenever I can," he said yesterday in a telephone
interview from his Memphis home.
Hooks and King were close friends, he said, and like
his friend, Hooks has been a lifelong champion of civil
rights.
Hooks said King was effective in his fight for civil
rights because of his nonviolent protests. "To him, non-
violence was not a technique, not a mechanism - it was

44I feel an obligation to
try and carry Dr. King's
message wherever and
whenever can."
- Benjamin Hooks
a way of life," he said.
Through this nonviolent movement, Hooks said King
came to "symbolize the importance of understanding that
the nonviolent movement ... might have success.".
When asked what the NAACP's greatest accomplish-
ment was under his tenure - from 1977 to 1993 - Hooks
replied, "I can't name one because we had so many."
Hooks cited several NAACP accomplishments under
his tenure: helping the government to passed 23 civil-
rights bills, fighting for a federal MLK holiday, attacking
apartheid in South Africa, and the establishment of the

uggle for justice
Fair Share Program, which funneled more than $1 billion
into Black communities.
"I am very sorry that the present state of the NAACP
is deplorable and it breaks my heart," Hooks said in
reference to recent troubles of the NAACP.
In August, its executive director, Benjamin Chavis,
was ousted due to his improper use of NAACP funds. In
October, Chairman William F. Gibson was charged with
using NAACP funds for travel and other expenses.
Hooks would not comment on Chavis' dismissal. "I
didn't want to be the old man that was throwing rocks
back," he said.
Hooks said his ideal next leader of the NAACP is
someone who understands the importance of fundraising,
can run a large organization, will "restore the voice of
credibility to the NAACP," he said.
As a distinguished professor of the Benjamin L.
Hooks Chair for Social Justice at Fisk University in
Nashville, Hooks teaches about the Black experience in
America.
"I'm trying to share some of the things that I've
experienced in my own life," he said.

Benjamin Hooks, former head of the NAACP, is
the keynote speaker for this year's MLK Day
symposium.

MIK Day 1995 Conflict and Communities: The Struggle for Racial Justice Calendar of Events

Saturday, Jan. 14
Performance by Ruth Brown

Noon, South University Avenue between Forest
and Washtenow avenues

Rebuild Los Angeles Committee Member
Warren Furuntani

:30p.m.,BA
Vans will depart from the campus to various area

7 p m., Power Center
Discounted tickets for Universily students available

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