By Jane R. Elgass
Frances R. Aparicio, associate professor of Spanish and of American culture; Donald E. Riggs, dean of the University Library; and Kyra D. Gaunt, a doctoral pre-candidate in ethnomusicology, have been named co-chairs of the 1993 Martin Luther King Day Symposium planning committee.
Scheduled for Jan. 18, program activities will reflect the theme of “From Indifference and Inequality to Justice and Reconciliation.”
Riggs notes that the theme is consistent with the activities of prior years and “instills the challenge for all people to work together toward reconciling their differences.
“Each unit has an opportunity to provide workshops and other activities that are geared toward the theme,” he adds, noting that “bringing people together was an important part of Dr. King’s dream.”
Aparicio is pleased she was asked to co-chair the group because “as a Caribbean Latina from Puerto Rico, the African legacy is a central part of my cultural identity and it is an integral part of my own research on Latin popular music. I have been interested in establishing stronger coalitions between the Latino/a and the African American communities at U-M, and this position allows me to begin to bring to the foreground some of the intersections and commonalities of the two groups.”
Aparicio notes that this year’s theme “reminds us that, despite all the historical struggles and the progress in our society toward true multiculturalism, social and economic inequality are still a tragic reality for many ethnic groups in the United States and particularly for young African Americans. Reconciliation,” she says, “can only occur when true justice is attained at all levels of society, from individual interaction to systematic and institutional decision-making.”
Gaunt accepted the post of co-chair because of her past involvement with Martin Luther King Day events and with various campus organizations.
“I have a firm commitment to the celebration of what Dr. King represented and has stood for in my life and in American life,” Gaunt says. “My participation as a chair and representative of the student body among the three co-chairs is an opportunity we students are not often afforded in major events such as this.”
Gaunt says that Martin Luther King Day “has truly educated me and enriched my tenure here at Michigan. I respect how it came about, which is all too often forgotten, like so much of African American history.”
Gaunt notes that she helped suggest this year’s theme, which “came from the committee’s collective feelings about the LA uprisings and the King verdict. I strongly feel that many of the problems students of color face here at Michigan, as well as white students when it comes to issues of racial strife, have the potential to escalate if we are not heard and we don’t get the real stuff out in the open. The real ‘stuff’ is the indifference and the inequality that still pervade the University community.”
The format of the 1993 commemoration of King’s life will differ from that of previous years, notes Jamal L. Young, Martin Luther King Day coordinator in the Office of Minority Affairs. The changes will enable members of the University community and other interested persons to attend events without being confined by overlapping time schedules.
“We also wanted to find a way to bring people together prior to the Unity March,” Young says, “as a way of encouraging their participation.”
The new schedule calls for unit- and department-sponsored programs taking place 8–10:45 a.m, followed by a Universitywide program featuring a keynote speaker. The annual Unity March and rally will be held at noon, followed by workshop and panel discussions in the afternoon (1:30–3 p.m. and 3–5 p.m.). These programs will be arranged by the symposium planning committee.
The evening programs will feature two cultural events, one at 6:30 p.m. and the other at 9 p.m., closing the symposium. A second keynote address will be given at 8 p.m.
In discussing unit programs for Martin Luther King Day, Aparicio notes that “many units are touched by multiculturalism. Thus, MLK Day planning should involve a profound assessment and recognition of the potential transformations that cultural diversity proposes in our respective fields of research, teaching and service, as well as an examination of the resistance toward diversity.”
Information forms were sent to units last week and should be returned to Young by Nov. 14 to be included in the printed program materials. Young says units are encouraged to develop programming that “gives people something to work with after the symposium.” Examples cited are last year’s Detroit Summer program, in which a number of U-M students participated, and a journal of views of diversity, Prism, developed under the leadership of the English Composition Board.