The 2023 MLK Symposium at the University of Michigan will kick off with an event on Friday, Jan. 13, presented by several LSA departments. “Historically Black Phrases: Musings on The Black Church’s Influence on Black Language & Popular Culture,” a talk by jarrett hill, a professor of linguistics at the University of Southern California, will be followed by a Q&A moderated by Jessi Grieser, associate professor of linguistics at U-M. 

In 2016, hill made international headlines after breaking the story of Michelle Obama’s speech being plagiarized by Melania Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Later that year, he was named to the 2016 Ebony Power 100.

The talk by hill is the Martin Luther King Jr. Colloquium presented by the Department of Linguistics and co-sponsored by the Residential College, National Center for Institutional Diversity, and the departments of Communication and Media, English Language and Literature, and Afroamerican and African Studies. It will be held from 4–5:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at Weiser Hall and will be livestreamed

The MLK Symposium is an annual collection of events at U-M. This year’s theme is “The (R)evolution of MLK,” and the keynote memorial lecture will feature a panel discussion with Aletha Maybank, a physician and chief health equity officer and senior vice president for the American Medical Association; Edward Buckles, a film director and producer; and Jalen Rose, philanthropist and former U-M and NBA basketball star. Earl Lewis—the founding director of the Center for Social Solutions, and the Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies, and public policy—will moderate the event, which will be presented from 10–11:30 a.m. Jan. 16 at Hill Auditorium and via livestream. 

The keynote and many other events in the symposium are sponsored or co-sponsored by LSA’s National Center for Institutional Diversity (NCID).


Other LSA-affiliated events:

  • The lecture and discussion “Before the Black Action Movement: The U-M African American Student Project, Washtenaw County’s Black Communities, and the Struggle for Inclusion” will take place from 2–4 p.m. Jan. 16 in the Michigan Union’s Pendleton Room.

    The event is presented by the departments of History and of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS), the Bentley Historical Library, the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, and the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County.

    Elizabeth James, the DAAS program associate who helped organize the event, says the panel was designed to shine a light on the experiences of African American students at the university from 1853–1970. Topics of discussion will include the Bentley Library’s African American Student project, the African American Cultural and Historical Museum’s Oral History project, and DAAS’s 50th Anniversary project.

    “We’re really hoping this will be an opportunity for a variety of voices to be heard, and an opportunity for us to reach out and say … that even though we are known at the university for having a very strong activist component, there’s still so much that continues to grow,” James says.

  • The Marjorie Lee Browne Colloquium will be held from 4–5 p.m. Jan. 16 in East Hall. Speaker Steven Kahn will talk about “Math Corps: Social Justice Through Loving and Believing in Kids—and a few Equations.”

    The colloquium honors the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics from U-M.

    Kahn is the director of the Wayne State University Center for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics and the co-founder of the WSU Math Corps. For more than 30 years, the Wayne State University Math Corps has been working to provide Detroit’s children with educational and lifetime opportunities. Over the past several years, the Math Corps at U(M) has been doing the same, serving children from Ypsilanti. 

    Rooted in social justice and based on a philosophy of “loving and believing in kids,” the Math Corps has achieved dramatic results and garnered national recognition and widespread acclaim.

  • “Genocide Prevention in the 21st Century” is the focus of a talk that will be held at the LSA Building from 4–5:30 p.m. Jan. 18. The Donia Human Rights Center, part of the university’s International Institute, is presenting the talk by Alice Wairimu Nderitu, UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide.

    Nderitu has been a recognized voice in the field of peacebuilding and violence prevention, having led as mediator and senior adviser in reconciliation processes among communities in her country, Kenya, as well as in other African settings. 

  • “Civil Rights in the 21st Century” will be the focus of a talk presented by the LSA Student Government. Imam Dr. Omar Suleiman, the founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and an adjunct professor of Islamic studies at Southern Methodist University, will speak at the Michigan League from 7–9 p.m. Jan. 26.

    The event is cosponsored by numerous LSA and U-M colleges, departments, and units. 

  • A two-part faculty symposium will focus on “Anti-Racism Research & Scholarship at U-M. It will be held on Jan. 30 and 31. Registration is required.

    Faculty and postdoctoral fellows are invited to attend this two-day symposium to learn about innovative, interdisciplinary anti-racism research and scholarship, discuss research development resources and funding, and connect with colleagues from different fields of study. 

  • NCID will present “#BlackLivesMatter Arts in the Performing Arts” 12:30–2 p.m. Feb. 10. Registration is required. The webinar will explore the role of the arts in advancing #BlackLivesMatter. 

A complete list of events comprising the symposium can be found on the web page of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at U-M.


Image courtesy of the University of Michigan MLK Symposium