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BU Honors Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59)

Events all week long commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death

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This week, the world is marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59) with special services, concerts, and other commemorative events. The pioneering civil rights leader was gunned down on a motel balcony on the night of April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. He was just 39 years old.

On Wednesday, bells will ring out across the nation starting at 6:01 pm Central Time to mark the moment he was killed.

King—who earned a PhD at BU in 1955 and whose philosophy of nonviolent resistance was shaped largely by his mentor Howard Thurman (Hon.’67), dean of Marsh Chapel from 1953 to 1965 and the first black dean of a predominantly white university—will be remembered by the University in a series of special events commemorating his life and legacy that will include lectures, prayer services, a jam session, and a concert at Symphony Hall. A full list of events is below.

Monday, April 2

Tell Them about the Dream: The Gotlieb Center Remembers King

In collaboration with The HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African American video oral history collection, the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center hosts a program revisiting Martin Luther King, Jr., and his dream. Khalil Muhammad, a Harvard Kennedy School professor of history, race, and public policy, will interview poet Nikki Giovanni on what King’s dream means today. Other speakers are Walter Fluker (GRS’88), the School of Theology Martin Luther King, Jr., Professor of Ethical Leadership; Louis Chude-Sokei, George and Joyce Wein Chair in African American Studies; BU trustee emeritus Melvin Miller, owner and publisher of the Bay State Banner; and Julieanna Richardson, founder and CEO of the HistoryMakers. There will also be an exhibition of some of the thousands of items from the Gotlieb Center’s Martin Luther King, Jr., archive. 

Tell Them about the Dream: The Gotlieb Center Remembers King is Monday, April 2, at 6 pm, at the George Sherman Union Metcalf Hall, 775 Commonwealth Ave., second floor; free and open to the public.

 

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Tuesday, April 3

School of Theology Lowell Lecture and Reception

Community activist and civil rights leader Rev. Traci Blackmon, executive minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries for the United Church of Christ in Florissant, Mo., will deliver the School of Theology’s 2018 Lowell Lecture. Prior to becoming the first female pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ, where she is now senior pastor, Blackmon was a nurse for 25 years. She gained national recognition for her community work after the 2014 killing of Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old African American man killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. She was appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships by President Barack Obama and served on the Ferguson Commission. She was also named to Ebony’s Power 100, a list of inspiring African Americans, in 2015. The lecture will be livestreamed. Blackmon will also speak at the STH Worship Service on Wednesday, April 4, at 11:10 am at Marsh Chapel.

The School of Theology Lowell Lecture is at 5 pm Tuesday, April 3, in the STH Community Center, 745 Commonwealth Ave., with a reception following in Room 325; free and open to the public, but registration is recommended.

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Wednesday, April 4

School of Theology Worship Service

Traci Blackmon (see above) will speak at the School of Theology’s weekly community worship service starting at 11:10 am at Marsh Chapel. The ecumenical service will include music by the School of Theology Seminary Singers, prayers, and scripture readings.

The School of Theology worship service is Wednesday, April 4, from 11:10 am to noon, at Marsh Chapel, 735 Commonwealth Ave.; free and open to the public.

Service of Remembrance: In Memoriam, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. Robert Allan Hill, dean of Marsh Chapel, will lead the University in an hour-long special prayer service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of MLK’s death and honor his legacy. Cornell William Brooks (STH’87, Hon.’15), STH and School of Law visiting professor of social ethics, law, and justice movements and former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, will deliver the sermon. Music will be provided by the Inner Strength Gospel Choir, the Marsh Chapel Choir, and the Thurman Choir.

Service of Remembrance: In Memoriam, Martin Luther King, Jr., is Wednesday, April 4, at 6 pm, at Marsh Chapel, 735 Commonwealth Ave.

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Thursday, April 5 

The Night That James Brown Saved Boston  

On April 5, 1968—the day after Martin Luther King, Jr.. was assassinated—cities across America, including Boston, were bracing for a second consecutive night of violent unrest and riots. That night, African American singer and songwriter James Brown was scheduled to give a live concert at the Boston Garden. City officials persuaded him to allow the concert to be televised live on WGBH, Boston’s PBS television station, to try to quell potential riots. The plan worked. The broadcast was credited with keeping potential rioters off the streets, helping the city maintain order and calm. Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), associate provost and dean of students, and Victor Coelho, a College of Fine Arts professor of musicology, will lead a discussion about that seminal concert. A jam session will follow, featuring Fred Wesley, trombonist for the James Brown Band, along with clips from the 2008 PBS documentary The Night That James Brown Saved Boston.  

The Night That James Brown Saved Boston starts at 5 pm Thursday, April 5, at BU Central, George Sherman Union, lower level, 775 Commonwealth Ave; free and open to the public.

Friday, April 6

Protest Without Words: The Arts and Social Change Panel Discussion

Louise Kennedy, former Boston Globe arts reporter and critic and WBUR senior producer for arts engagement and current BU Development & Alumni Relations writer and editor, will moderate a panel discussion exploring the role the fine arts have played in America’s history of protest, resistance, and resilience. Panelists are Harvey Young, dean of the College of Fine Arts, composer Kirke Mechem, whose piece Songs of a Slave will be performed at CFA’s Monday, April 9, Symphony Hall concert (see below), and Kerri Greenidge (GRS’09,’12), codirector of the Tufts University African American Freedom Trail Project. Cosponsored by the BU Arts Initiative and the School of Music, is designed as a prelude to the Symphony Hall concert.

Protest Without Words: The Arts and Social Change is Friday, April 6, at 7 pm, at the Photonics Center, Room 206, 8 Saint Mary’s St. The event is free and open to the public, but registration in advance is requested here.

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Sunday, April 8

After Fifty Years: The King Legacy in Word and Song at Marsh Chapel

Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (Hon.’14), will be the special guest preacher at Marsh Chapel’s weekly Sunday 11 am interdenominational service, titled “After Fifty Years: The King Legacy in Word and Song.” The Marsh Chapel choir will perform the Wendell Whalun spiritual “Lily of the Valley” and “Amazing Grace.” The service will be followed by a guided walk to the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center in Mugar Memorial Library for a tour of its Martin Luther King, Jr., collection. On the walk to the Gotlieb Center, guests will be greeted by Marsh Chapel congregation members portraying various King contemporaries who were leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. Thomas Batson (CFA’20) will portray Rev. Ralph Abernathy, cofounder with King of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Those who cannot attend the service can listen to the broadcast live on WBUR 90.9 FM or at wbur.org.

The Marsh Chapel Sunday service “After Fifty Years: The King Legacy in Word and Song” is Sunday, April 8, at 11 am, at Marsh Chapel, 735 Commonwealth Ave., immediately followed by a guided walk to the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, 771 Commonwealth Ave.

Monday, April 9

Protest Without Words: The Arts and Social Change Concert at Symphony Hall

For the first time, the three major performing ensembles of the CFA School of Music—the BU Symphony Orchestra, BU Symphonic Chorus, and BU Wind Ensemble—will perform together at Boston’s Symphony Hall. The concert program, part of BU’s observance of the 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination, will feature music of protest, resistance, and resilience. The Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Neal Hampton, CFA associate director of orchestral activities, will perform Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, narrated by special guest Cornell William Brooks (STH’87, Hon.’15), School of Theology and School of Law visiting professor of social ethics, law, and justice movements and former NAACP president. David Martins, a CFA master lecturer, will direct the Wind Ensemble in Karl Husa’s Music for Prague 1968. And Miguel Ángel Felipe, a CFA visiting associate professor, will lead the Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus in William Grant Still’s Plain-Chant for America and Kirke Mechem’s Songs of the Slave, accompanied by soloists soprano Michelle Johnson (CFA’07) and baritone Brian K. Major (CFA’08,’10).

The College of Fine Arts concert is Monday, April 9, at 8 pm, at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. The concert is free and open to the public, but tickets are required; register here for up to four tickets. The tickets will be available starting at 7 pm April 9 at the BU table in the Symphony Hall lobby (not at the BSO box office). Walk-up tickets will also be available at the BU table.

Sunday, April 29

In His Own Words: A Concert of New Compositions in Memory of MLK at Marsh Chapel

Five local Boston composers will premiere original compositions based on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s own words in this special concert at Marsh Chapel. Among the composers is Vartan Aghababian, a CFA lecturer, whose work In the Words of Dr. King will be performed along with work by Kathy Wonson Eddy, Pamela J. Marshall, Thomas Stumpf, and John M. Tarrh. The concert is being presented to reflect an order of service, with music for soprano and string trio interspersed with spoken-word readings and poetic reflections, a nod to King’s ministry.

In His Own Words: A Concert of New Compositions in Memory of MLK will take place at 3 pm at Marsh Chapel, 735 Commonwealth Ave. Suggested donation is $20.

Madeleine O’Keefe can be reached at mokeefe@bu.edu.

1 Comments

One Comment on BU Honors Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59)

  • Marjorie Bernadeau-Alexandre on 04.02.2018 at 9:57 am

    This 50 Years Later tribute has brought tears to my eyes. I attended the MLK Day in January with my children and it got them talking about their frustrations of today’s world. I am hoping the events this week will encourage my 17 year-old son to be engaged and inspired on the parts he can play in making the world the better place that he wants it to be. thanks for touching my soul.

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