Civil rights celebrations and conversations

01-16-2015

Fifty years ago, more than 4,000 people packed MSU’s Fairchild Theatre to hear the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. The recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize was visiting campus to help raise funds for an MSU student-run educational outreach program that would send student and faculty volunteers to Mississippi.

Only a week or so earlier, when tickets for the February 11 event went on sale, Dr. King was in jail in Selma, Alabama, for his work there promoting desegregation.

Two important milestones in American civil rights history are at the heart of Michigan State’s Project 60/50, which has engaged the campus and community in a range of civil and human rights conversations and concludes with this year’s observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day January 19.

The 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have been commemorated through the project, coordinated by MSU’s Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives.

Project 60/50 featured or was part of more than 200 events and initiatives—including The Race Card Project, the 2014 One Book, One Community program, and the 60/50 Theatre Project—and attracted thousands of participants, as well as some two-dozen corporate sponsors and community partners.

The project and its impact exceeded our expectations, even as events elsewhere across the country seemed to deepen racial divisions. Those often-tragic events underscore the continued necessity of creating safe spaces where important conversations can take place—in this case, civil discourse focused on civil rights and social justice.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day serves as an important time each year to reflect on the tireless efforts of Dr. King and his supporters. But we must continue conversations and activities in our daily lives that address civil and human rights violations happening around us—that echo past struggles, but will not dictate our future. Spartans Will.

 NOTE: As in the past, MSU will not hold classes on MLK Day, enabling students and faculty to attend special events and reflect on Dr. King’s legacy. For a complete list of 2015 events, including those planned by colleges and departments, visit www.inclusion.msu.edu and click on the King link.

President Simon salutes Project 60/50

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