U-M announces 2024 MLK Symposium theme, speaker


The University of Michigan community is invited to explore “Transforming the Jangling Discords of Our Nation into a Beautiful Symphony” as the theme of its 2024 symposium honoring civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

As one of the nation’s largest celebrations of King’s life and legacy sponsored by higher education, the annual symposium’s theme will call on the community to grapple with the nature of ongoing discord around the globe, and to examine the role of individuals and members of society to create a world where harmony is possible. 

Photo of Michelle Alexander
Michelle Alexander

Michelle Alexander, legal scholar, social justice advocate, columnist at The New York Times and visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, will deliver the memorial keynote lecture at 10 a.m. Jan. 15, 2024, at Hill Auditorium. It also will be livestreamed.

Author of the acclaimed bestseller “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” Alexander peels back the curtain on systemic racism in the prison system and offers insights on how to end the racial caste in America.

During her keynote she will explore the myths surrounding the criminal justice system from a racial and ethical standpoint, and offer solutions for combating this epidemic.

This year’s theme focuses on an essential element of the ministry and social justice advocacy of King, and his belief in the transformative power of faith, hope and love to mend the rifts in society.

He articulated his dream of racial equality and social and economic justice in his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, which includes the quote, “With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

This statement encapsulates a profound vision of unity, peace and reconciliation in the face of discord and division.

The keynote is co-sponsored by the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives under the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

Artwork for 2024 MLK Symposium showing image of Martin Luther King Jr. and the words Transforming the Jangling Discords of our Nation
This is the poster artwork for the 2024 MLK Symposium.

OAMI Director Rachel Dawson, who assumed the role in October, reflected on the importance of the MLK Symposium to OAMI and to her experience as a student at U-M.

“It is humbling and inspiring to move from an MLK student volunteer who embraced the tradition of student activism at the university to be the director that host this event where I can pass the torch to the next generation of student leaders and honor the traditions of MLK to fight for justice, work for peace, embrace a love for all humanity and eliminate the stain of anti-black racism,” she said.

Photo of BLKBOK

The event, which is free and open to the public, also will feature a live piano performance by Detroit-based artist and composer BLKBOK.

As part of the campuswide initiative to honor King, departments and units around campus will facilitate a range of activities throughout January. Departments that would like their events featured on the symposium’s website can submit their event information online on the MLK Symposium events page.

Other aspects of the MLK Symposium are still being planned and will be posted on the event page once finalized.


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