emu faculty to honor martin luther king

I recently learned two new things from my friend Christine Hume, who is a professor of Creative Writing at Eastern Michigan University. I learned that EMU has a non-FM, student-run radio station, called Eagle Radio, which students can hear in the dorms. And, I learned that Christine has a show on the station. Her program, which is called Poetry Radio, can be heard every Sunday night from 8:00 to 9:00. And, if you don’t live in the EMU dorms, you can listen online by following that top link.

The show, she says, samples “contemporary and historic sound art, performance art, sound poetry, collaborations between writers and musicians, and interviews with writers.”

Tonight’s show will be on the subject of MLK Day, featuring the work of Pamela Z, Language Removal Services, Tracie Morris, Sun Ra, Jaap Blonk, Amiri Baraka, Claudia Rankine, People Like Us, Will Alexander, Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky), Fred Moten, Erica Hunt, Jed Rasula, Taylor Mali, Cecil Taylor, and Martin Luther King Jr.

[As the program won’t be recorded, if you want to hear it, you have to have to listen live, as it streams.]

Speaking of Martin Luther King Day and EMU, I also understand that my friend, History professor Mark Higbee, will be holding an event tomorrow afternoon on campus. He mentioned it here, in a comment left in the wake of my post on Obama’s suggestion that King be honored by a National Day of Service… Here, in case you didn’t read it at the time, is what Mark wrote:

Dr. King would have turned 80 yesterday, if he’d lived. He’s now being in his grave longer than he lived above the ground. He died at age 39, and one of his nicknames, used by his younger associates who relied on his wisdom, was “The Old Man”.

I heard on the radio tonight that in India a tape has been uncovered of a speech he gave on this month long visit to India in 1959, a previously unknown. tape of a King speech — a rare and valuable thing. Dr. King lives, decades after his death.

I have mixed feelings about this ‘do a good deed’ on MLK day idea. I know why Obama is promoting it, and I would not ever want to discourage acts of kindness or service. But Dr. King was a radical, an agitator, not a mere promoter of simple acts of charity. He was for over turning the status quo, and for ending poverty and discrimination and violence, and for establishing peace and justice on earth. He knew that these goals could be advanced only thru, or mainly thru, confrontation, and he was VERY confrontational. He was nonviolent, but not meek.

King is often white-washed into some kind of ‘acceptable to everyone’ national hero. But in truth, he was not so popular in the years before his death — he was an outcast in his own land. He was speaking truth to power, and was very aggressively getting “in the face” of sources of oppression. That’s how he accomplished so much.

I don’t claim to emulate him, or to take risks like he did, or to be at all brave, or anything like that; and shoveling show and helping people are very worthwhile acts. It is rarely a mistake to be generous of one’s time and labor. And reading King’s words, or listening to his speeches, are always worthwhile, any day of the year. We should all do these things Monday. But maybe we can also devote some time to thinking this week about how to ‘get in the face’ of the status quo, which includes so many horrible things that King and his Movement were trying to overcome. Hunger in America and around the world are worse today than in 1968, and the causes of that are structural, not simply a lack of enough charitable behavior.

Just a thought. Don’t mean to be hostile to any acts of kindness, and performing them this week with King’s message in mind is surely fitting and worthwhile.

Monday I’m doing things at EMU for MLK Day, with students of mine, at 2pm and 3pm in the Kiva room of the Student Center, should you care to come by and see “The Trial of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Montgomery 1956,” a kind of historical role-playing game that students from my civil rights class did in the fall. Should be fun, and it’s one of those pedagogical ‘out of the box’ things that I think, immodestly perhaps, is a tribute to King and a way to teach the realities of his movement that are too often overlooked: He was part of a movement for justice that was OPPOSED by the status quo, not embraced by the powers that were.

Other Martin Luther King Day events can be found at Eastern Michigan University, the University of Michigan, the Ypsi District Library, and the Ann Arbor Public Library.

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2 Comments

  1. Oliva
    Posted January 19, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Happy days, everyone–this fine holiday and the new day coming tomorrow. Smiles abound.

    Don’t mean to be hostile to any acts of kindness, and performing them this week with King’s message in mind is surely fitting and worthwhile.

    Nice post, and the afternoon events at EMU sound wonderful.

    The civic kindness notion really was an idea from back at Election Day–before I’d thought to examine a calender. I would’ve seen that the official MLK Day lands on the day before the Inauguration. (Such a ripe and powerful time.) Linking the idea with MLK’s message wasn’t the intention, but it was a sincere yearning to live in a world with more heart, led with heart–such as what brought us to this moment. (Pundits keeps saying “Obama’s all head, so cool,” but so many people I talk to sense it differently and say, “He’s all heart.”)

    King talked about our hearts too in a pretty wonderful way:

    And the question I want to raise this morning with you: is your heart right? (Yes, Preach) If your heart isn’t right, fix it up today; get God to fix it up. (Go ahead) Get somebody to be able to say about you, “He may not have reached the highest height, (Preach it) he may not have realized all of his dreams, but he tried.” (Yes) Isn’t that a wonderful thing for somebody to say about you? “He tried to be a good man. (Yes) He tried to be a just man. He tried to be an honest man. (Yes) His heart was in the right place.” (Yes) And I can hear a voice saying, crying out through the eternities, “I accept you. (Preach it) You are a recipient of my grace because it was in your heart. (Yes) And it is so well that it was within thine heart.” (Yes, sir)

    I don’t know this morning about you, but I can make a testimony. (Yes, sir, That’s my life) You don’t need to go out this morning saying that Martin Luther King is a saint. Oh, no. (Yes) I want you to know this morning that I’m a sinner like all of God’s children. But I want to be a good man. (Yes, Preach it) And I want to hear a voice saying to me one day, “I take you in and I bless you, because you try. (Yes, Amen) It is well (Preach it) that it was within thine heart.” (Yes) What’s in your heart this morning? (Oh Lord) If you get your heart right . . .
    –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 3 March 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church

  2. Robert
    Posted January 19, 2009 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad I lived to see this day.

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