2018 MLK program Immersion Experience - Speaking Truth to Power: Civil Rights & Social justice Storytelling

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

by Alexander Hines

On April 4, 1968, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.  This tragic event impacted student activism on campuses across the country, including the University of Minnesota.  Inspired by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Campus Movement and the Black Student Movement, the Afro-American Action Committee (AAAC) at the University of Minnesota occupied Morrill Hall in January 1969 and presented then-president Malcolm Moos with a set of demands; among them was the establishment of a student services support program.  The action of those student leaders—Rose Mary Freeman, Horace Huntley, Warren Tucker, Hattie Webb and John S. Wright—led to the creation of the MLK Program within the College of Liberal Arts.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) program is in its 49th year and in April 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of providing individualized, holistic, and culturally attentive advising that supports academic excellence, wellness, and professional development. The MLK Jr. Program office currently serves African/African Americans, American Indians, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Caucasians, Latinx, and International students that are representative of multiple intersecting identities. In honoring our namesake, Rev. Dr. King Jr. and the AAAC founders, one of our core goals is to provide students with campus and community engagement experiences that enhance their understanding of diversity, social and racial justice, and collective activism that promotes the “Beloved Community” to cultivate a new generation of leaders with the knowledge and skills to imagine a socially just world and be a part of creating it.

In 2017 with the support of CLA leadership, the MLK Immersion Experience was initiated in collaboration with the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA) with the theme of “Organizing and Social Change in Communities of Color and Indigenous Communities, Minneapolis, Minnesota.”  Twenty-Eight students and two MLK Advisors spent a week with leaders from local social justice and community organizations: Pangea World Theater; Native American Community Development Institute; Minneapolis American Indian Center; Black Lives Matter; Voices for Racial Justice; Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha; Unidxs por Justicia; Neighborhoods Organizing for Change; and Take Action Minnesota. Participants learned about the history, stories strategies and tactics that have built some of the most powerful movements in the past 15 years. They engaged with seasoned elders and young activists who are working across age and cultural divides to support each other and develop new leadership and organizing models.

This year with continued support of CLA leadership, the MLK staff planned and coordinated the 2018 Immersion Experience – Minneapolis, MN, Chicago, IL, and St. Paul, MN with the theme of “Speaking Truth to Power: Civil Rights & Social justice Storytelling.”  Fifteen students, four MLK staff members, one faculty member from African American & African Studies, one faculty member from the College of Education and Human Development and a staff member from the School of Nursing spent a week with educators, leaders and activist from the Civil Rights Movement, Black Literature and Arts Movement, Black Power Movement and current day social justice storytellers learning about the history, stories, strategies and tactics connecting current day movements to past movements. (See the bottom of this story for a detailed schedule.)

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the Peaceable Kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony. Rather, The Beloved Community was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.

From Dr. King’s conclusion in his book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,” he stated: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity . . . This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos or community.”  Our MLK Program mission includes providing educational/experiential programming that fosters students' engagement with and understanding of the complex issues of power, privilege, and social justice. We promote and support students' exploration of modes of advocacy and activism that will enhance their capacity to imagine a more equitable and just world and to be a part of creating it. In so doing, the MLK Program supports the University’s mission to prepare students to be ethical leaders and engaged citizens.

Alexander Hines is the Director for Diversity, Access and Equity, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & President’s Emerging Scholars Programs, College of Liberal Arts 

2018 Immersion Experience Workshops and Speakers

Day 1 – University of Minnesota - Minneapolis

  • Community Building – Melanie Johnson & Gale Smaller Jr. – University of Minnesota - CLA MLK Academic Advisors
  • The Power of History: Turning Tragedy in Triumph – The Emmett Till Story – Deborah Watts, Co-Founder, Executive Director and President, MN and Cousin  – Emmett Till Legacy Foundation
  • Minnesota Women of the Civil Rights Movement – Dr. Josie Johnson & Ms. Claire O’Connor
  • What was Black Power and Is It Still Necessary? – Dr. Keith Mayes, Professor, African American and African Studies Department, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota

Day 2 – Chicago, Illinois 

  • DuSable Museum of African American History – A Smithsonian Affiliate - Guided Tour – Melissa Moore, Docent
  • Demystifying the Myth of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – Ezra Hyland, Teaching Specialist, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota

Day 3 – Chicago, Illinois

  • Faculty, Staff and Parent Orientation & Tour – Third World Press and Betty Shabazz International Charter School
  • The Rise of the Black Arts Movement and its Connection to the Civil Rights Movement –
  • Dr. Haki Madhubuti, Founder, Third World Press and Author
  • Rise of the Phoenix: Voices from Chicago’s Black Struggle 1960-1975 – Useni Eugene Perkins, Professor, Author, Poet and Playwright & Dr. Carol Adams, President /CEO of Urban Prescriptives, Chicago, IL
  • Words of Inspiration and Photograph – Zandra Hayes, Trading Post Manager, DuSable Museum of African American History
  • Beyond Resistance:  Activism & Change Connecting Current Social Justice Movements and their Connection to Civil Rights Movement – Dr. David O. Stovall, Professor, African American Studies and Educational Policy Studies,  and African-American Studies, College of Liberal Arts, University of Illinois Chicago

Day 4 – Return to Minnesota

Day 5 – St. Paul, Minnesota – Rondo Community – Hallie Quinn Brown Community Center - Martin Luther King Multi-Service Hub Center

  • Tour Hallie Quinn Brown Community Center & Rondo Exhibit – Dawn Selle, Manager of Development & External Relations
  • Rondo Community: Past Present and Future – Mr. Marvin Anderson, Project Director of the Rondo Commemorative Plaza and Chair of the Board of Directors for ReConnectRondo
  • Personal Reflections and Storytelling of Rondo Community – Mr. Floyd Smaller Jr., Rondo Community Elder



"Perspectives" stories are the views and opinions of their authors and do not necessarily reflect any official position of the University of Minnesota.