In 1967, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the first draft of his final book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” In it, King shared his thoughts, plans and dreams for America’s future, including the need for better jobs, higher wages, decent housing and quality education.
As the University of Michigan community grapples with the ramifications of a global pandemic and examines meaningful ways to address systemic racism, and as America continues to reckon with race, “Where Do We Go From Here?”is the theme of the university’s 2021 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium.
The annual keynote memorial lecture will take place virtually at 10 a.m. Jan. 18. It is coordinated by the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives and co-sponsored by the Stephen M. Ross School of Business with support from the William K. McInally Memorial Lecture Fund. The event will feature Detroit-based activists and educators Gloria House and Malik Yakini.
To supplement the memorial lecture in honoring King’s legacy and to further engage the full campus community, additional events will be organized by departments and units across campus and take place during January and February.
“In 2020, our nation was met with a pandemic that has fundamentally reshaped the way we live, work and, thus, connect,” said Robert Sellers, vice provost for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. “We are experiencing significant social unrest and recovering from an election that reflects the deep fissures that divide our nation. As a result, this is the time to ask and work deeply to answer — where do we go from here?”
After sharing remarks individually, House and Yakini will participate in a discussion moderated by Stephen Ward, associate professor of Afroamerican and African studies and the Residential College, LSA.
House is an artist, activist and educator. Her accomplishments include four collections of poetry, a career as a professor at Wayne State University and UM-Dearborn, and a wide impact on social justice movements in Detroit and around the country.
As a young woman, House played a role in some of the key justice movements of the 1960s. She joined the free speech movement as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, then left campus in 1965 to work for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
House earned a Ph.D. in American culture and history at U-M and became a professor at Wayne State University in African-American literature and American culture research methods in the interdisciplinary studies program. She retired from WSU in 1998.
House also was a member of the faculty at UM-Dearborn, where she designed a major in African-American and African studies and was the program’s director. In 2014, she retired from UM-Dearborn and was named a professor emerita.
Through her academic life, House remained committed to activism. These days, she continues to be involved in the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Movement, which aims to create free, African-centered educational experiences on weekends and after school for children and their families.
Yakini is an advocate — described as equal parts warmth and warrior — for access to healthy food in the Black community. For more than 20 years he was a principal of Nsoroma Institute, an African-centered elementary school in Detroit.
With a limited number of full-scale groceries and only one national chain grocery located in Detroit, Yakini saw the need to expand the use and development of community gardens and developed a food security curriculum within his school.
Yakini has said his belief is that food security and sovereignty play a significant role in health care and wellness and that controlling production of locally grown food allows people to access foods that contribute to long-term health.
In 2011, Yakini became the executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, a community-based organization created to address food insecurity in Detroit’s Black community and to organize members to play a more active leadership role in the local food security movement.
Since 2008, DBCFSN has operated D-Town Farm, the largest of Detroit’s many gardens and farms.