U-M Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium

Theme Statement

Each year a planning committee composed of faculty, staff, and students across campus choose a theme based on its relevance to current social justice issues and the teachings of Dr. King.

The 2019 Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium theme is…Unravel.

Unravel represents the value and frightening nature of unmasking and addressing institutional isms (racism, classism, sexism, ableism, etc…) and personal bias and discrimination in order to arrive at a more just and inclusive community.

To unravel is to deeply examine our values and the character of our actions in order to tease out the parts of our identity (nationality, race, class, sex, gender, etc…) that lead to marginalizing and targeting others. Our biases are closely tied to who we are, interwoven into the fabric of our lives. Some biases are easy to see. Some only perceptible once we encounter someone who–at some point invisible to us–forces us to see and recognize who they are or what we did to them. To remove these biases we must deconstruct our world as we know it.

Unravel acknowledges that it is unsettling and even upsetting to consider letting go of our biases because they are part of how we understand ourselves. But it is this fear we must overcome, that we must unravel in, to become who we were meant to become. Unraveling allows us to see that we are more than our biases and thus can let them go with no harm to ourselves.

If we are willing to chip away at our deepest values and challenge our longest held traditions, we may chisel out institutions that contain diversity, equity and inclusion at its base. The mere fact that we can name and codify systemic/institutional discrimination is progress. Yet there is more work to be done to address it. This work is the responsibility of institutions before they are prompted by protest and demonstration. Thus, Unravel also calls us to be proactive in this transformative process.

This years symposium hopes to see speakers, events, workshops, trainings, performances and demonstrations that support us in facing the fear of unraveling. Challenge the deeply seated and long-standing traditions that keep us from reaching our highest virtues. Train and teach us to reshape the world to reflect the reality that we are one community enriched by both our similarities and differences.

Complete Theme Statement Coming Soon!