Welcome Message from the 2023 MLK Symposium Committee

The 2023 MLK Symposium Planning Committee is excited to honor and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to share with the University community an inspirational and educational keynote address on Monday, January 16, 2023, at 10 a.m. at Hill Auditorium. The keynote address includes a dynamic mix of local and national speakers and performances, and we are excited to host the event in person for the first time since 2020.

This year’s theme, “The (R)evolution of MLK: from Segregation to Elevation,” will explore King’s activism after 1964, highlighting the evolution of King’s primary focus on segregation to a broader, more radical, and revolutionary platform that included health, economics, and education. Dr. King’s quote, “White Americans must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society,” defines him as a front-runner in Critical Race Theory.

Three panelists from different perspectives will push beyond King’s legacy of “I Have a Dream” and “nonviolence” to a discussion that centers on King’s more challenging and complex legacy calling for our society to seek solutions to the cultural, economic and governmental root causes of racism. Three of Dr. King’s quotes will shape the discussion:

Health Care as a Human Right
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Social and Economic Justice
“We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together. And you can’t get rid of one without getting rid of the other.”

The Battleground of Education
“It was not fortuitous that education became embroiled in this conflict.” “…Education is one of the vital tools the Negro needs in order to advance. And yet it has been denied him by devices of segregation and manipulations with quality.”

In addition to a moderated panel, The (R)evolution of Dr. King will be demonstrated through the premier performance of “Black Pilgrims,” a hip-hop and electronic mini-opera/oratorio depicting a sung and spoken fictional conversation between King and Malcolm X.

The opera was created by Stephen Rush, professor of dance/music technology, School of Music, Theatre & Dance; and will be performed by Scott Piper, the Norma L. Heyde Faculty Development professor of voice, SMTD; and Daniel Washington, professor of music (voice), SMTD. The opera will exhibit a quite-parallel vision of Civil Rights, from the voices of King and Malcolm X post-travel (India for King and Mecca for Malcom) and the resulting perspectives on how different societies treated “otherness.”

In closing, the event will feature Vincent Bohanan’s song, “We Win,” performed by the Voices of Distinction from the Detroit School of Arts, and conducted by Julian Goods, a graduate of the University of Michigan.

We hope you will join us in the Hill Auditorium on January 16 @ 10 a.m. We are looking forward to the celebration of Dr. King’s birthday and hope that you will find that this year’s Keynote Address will present a provocative and fresh look at his legacy.


The 2023 Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium Planning Committee