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Exciting speakers, candid conversations mark annual King event at RIT Campus life, Events

RIT has hosted some exciting speakers for its annual Expressions of King’s Legacy Celebration—from Alvin F. Poussaint and Nikki Giovanni to Orlando Patterson, from T. Leon Williams and Peter Jemison to Calvin Mackie.

This year’s program, featuring Professor Cornel West, is a milestone, marking not only the 30-year anniversary of RIT celebrating Martin Luther King Day, but it looks like he’ll address one of the largest crowds we’ve had on campus for the event (at least 1,500 are registered to attend).

Planners have had to re-arrange the field house setting a few times as demand has increased as the 23rd approaches. Might 2,000 people be a possibility? There’s definitely room, and so much to partake of this year.

It will be a full day for all of our invited guests:

• West will attend a Liberty Hill breakfast that morning, then meet with students in Tim Engstrom’s philosophy class just before the main celebration.

• Poet Joshua Bennett will perform the night before at NTID, then tour the college on Monday.

• Garth Fagan dancers will lead a master class for the RIT/NTID Dance Company 10-11 a.m. at the Panara Theatre. P.S.: You can drop by the theater to watch or bring your dance clothes to participate, says Thomas Warfield, lecturer, NTID culture and creative studies.

But despite the excitement of such a prominent group of people coming to RIT this year and over the years, many of the speakers ask how times have changed since King championed equity and inclusion. All ask, in some form or another, the rhetorical question, is King’s message still relevant today? What do you think? I wish I had the answers.

In his book, Race Matters, Cornel West wrote, “Our truncated public discussions of race suppress the best of who we are and what we are as a people because they fail to confront the complexity of the issue in a candid and critical manner.”

I expect we will be listening to someone who addresses race in all its complexity in a candid manner. Here’s to a very stimulating conversation.


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