Published: Jan. 15, 2008

MSU pays tribute to civil rights leader through service, study, arts, cultural contributions

EAST LANSING, Mich. At approximately 6 p.m. on April 4, 40 years ago,  people listened as Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the balcony of a motel room in Memphis, Tenn., talking about the next day’s protest march in support of the city’s black sanitation workers. Five days later, April 9, 1968, the world mourned as King, the target of an assassin’s bullet, was laid to rest in Atlanta.

There have been many milestones in the history of the civil rights movement, from marches and protests to landmark court decisions regarding desegregation and voting rights, stemming from King’s leadership.

Michigan State University students, faculty and staff will pay tribute to King and his words and works through a commemorative march, student leadership conference, a day of service with “Into the Streets” volunteers, arts and cultural exhibits, college events and a community dinner.

“Exploring Civil Rights through Art and Culture” is the 2008 MSU Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration theme, held in conjunction with the university’s Year of Arts and Culture activities.

“In the 1960s and 1970s, during the height of the civil rights movement, many artists, musicians, dancers, poets, authors and playwrights used their gifts to powerfully illustrate the struggle for equality that Dr. King and others were leading in the streets, churches, schools and courtrooms across the country,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “The inspired work and lasting impact of this artistic movement central to the civil rights movement is highlighted in many of the performances and programs in our MLK celebratory activities.”

The main events include two free jazz performances at 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday by the MSU Jazz Orchestra I with Sisters in Praise and guest speakers participating. General admission tickets for“Jazz:Spirituals, Prayer and Protest” concert with the theme “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts box office. The concerts will be held in the Pasant Theatre of the Wharton Center. Call (517) 353-1982 for more information.

On Monday, activities include a commemorative march, beginning at 3:15 p.m. at the first floor of the MSU Union. Participants will follow a march route to Beaumont Tower and visit the MSU Museum to see the “Quilt and Human Rights” exhibit, which explores the roles of quilt makers in raising awareness for human rights and pays tribute to prominent civil rights leaders. Visit the Web at

Also on Monday, beginning at 4:30 p.m., there will be a community celebratory dinner at the Akers Hall Café. The dinner is free for MSU community members with a valid MSU identification. General public and additional MSU community member tickets are $9. Seating is limited and registration is required. The program, which begins at about 5:30 p.m., will feature speakers and arts and cultural performances related to the civil rights movement. For more information, contact Venice Smith at (517) 432-0663.

The Kresge Art Museum will feature works by Detroit artist Tyree Guyton and work from other prominent black artists. For more information on this exhibit, visit

This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Student Leadership Conference, with the theme “United for a Cause: Awareness, Inclusion, Action,” will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at the MSU Union on Monday. The conference will feature Javar B. Jackson of Detroit, a junior medical technology major, as the luncheon keynote speaker at 11:55 a.m.

Morning workshops include such topics as how civil rights affect today’s youth, perceptions of social justice in the United States, students’ work at an orphan care center in South Africa and King’s leadership role in international human rights issues. There also will be a session for all attendees to discuss issues relating to the conference theme.

Students will hold an “Into the Streets” day of service with MSU students volunteering at various community agencies throughout the Lansing area. Registration for this event begins at 9:15 a.m. Monday in the N-130 Eli Broad College of Business Complex.

For more information on the 2008 All-University Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration Planning Committee and other campus events, visit the Web at


Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.