The highlight of the festivities is the first Wittenberg Series event of 2006. The Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Convocation is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 16, in Weaver Chapel, and will feature award-winning journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault. She replaces Henry Louis Gates, who is unable to attend the convocation due to health problems. The lecture is presented with support from the Endowment for the William A. Kinnison Endowed Lecture in History and is co-sponsored by the Department of Africana Studies, the Office of Multicultural Programs and Concerned Black Students (CBS).
Hunter-Gault, a close friend of Gates, is currently a special correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR). She made civil rights history in 1963 when she became the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Georgia. She discusses her experiences in a memoir titled In My Place (1992).
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Hunter-Gault worked as a reporter for The New Yorker. A few years later, she joined the New York Times and eventually became Harlem Bureau Chief. She also directed a minority journalism program at Columbia University.
For 20 years, Hunter-Gault served as a national correspondent for Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. She also worked as the network’s chief correspondent in Africa before becoming CNN’s Johannesburg bureau chief and correspondent in 1999.
Among dozens of prestigious honors and awards, Hunter-Gault is the recipient of two Emmys and two Peabody awards for her work as a chief correspondent in Africa, as well as for “Apartheid’s People,” a series about South African life during apartheid. She was also named Journalist of the Year in 1986 by the National Association of Black Journalists.
“Charlayne Hunter-Gault is a global newsperson,” said Forest Wortham, director of multicultural student programs and a member of Wittenberg’s King Committee. “She’s been pushing the envelope for issues that have a global impact.”
The King Committee, chaired by Lillian Franklin, associate professor of languages and acting director of Africana studies, aims to help the university find programming appropriate to observe the holiday. In addition to the convocation honoring King, the dynamic civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1968 is the inspiration for a variety of campus activities scheduled throughout the week.
At 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 12 and Thursday, Jan. 19, a public showing of Crash, a film about racial intolerance in contemporary America, will take place in Ness Family Auditorium and rooms 217 and 315 in Hollenbeck Hall. An open discussion will follow.
The Wittenberg community is also invited to participate in a Freedom March at 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 16. The march begins at the Springfield Museum of Art and concludes at the Benham-Pence Student Center. Throughout the day, Wittenberg’s campus radio station (WUSO) will broadcast “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” an audio series about the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the music from the era. At 4 p.m. a Q & A with Charlayne Hunter-Gault will be held in Bayley Auditorium at the Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center. Evening festivities include a Martin Luther King Jr. birthday party in Wally’s Pub at 9 p.m., sponsored by CBS. In addition to activities throughout Martin Luther King Jr. day, the Pastors Office will sponsor a forum by the Department of Sociology titled “Revisiting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘Christmas Sermon on Peace:’ How Would Dr. King Speak About the United States Presence in Iraq Today?” at 11:20 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, in Weaver Chapel.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s community involvement, the King Committee is also sponsoring Witt Reads, a service project created by Bruce Robinson of Cincinnati, Ohio, class of 2006. The project will be held in two phases. The first involves a book drive for elementary and middle-school students. During the second phase, which continues into February, also designated Black History Month, Wittenberg students, faculty and staff are encouraged to read to students in elementary and middle schools.
Wortham said he hopes that the Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities provide members of the Wittenberg community with a different perspective. The events are open to the general public as well.
“I hope they walk away with an understanding that it’s OK to be different and that we should celebrate it,” he said.
- Sarah Gearhart '06
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