MCLA to Present Year of 'Creating Equality' Programming- Author, Musician James McBride to Present Sept. 26 Kick-Off Event


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - In recognition of the many 50-year anniversaries of key events in the history of the United States' civil rights movement, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) will explore its legacy and impact on American society through a series of events and programming to be held throughout the upcoming academic year.

During this 2013-14 year, these milestone civil rights anniversaries include the August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that included the "I Have a Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the signing of the Civil Rights Act in July, 1964. In 2014, the nation will recognize the 60th anniversary of the history U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education which declared segregated public schools unconstitutional. 

"We thought it was important to draw attention to these anniversaries and to use them as a jumping off point for further consideration for where the larger civil rights movement is today," said Cynthia Brown, vice president of academic affairs.

MCLA's "Creating Equality" events will include speakers, discussions, films, art exhibits, performing arts events, and much more. Many of the programs will be free and open to the public, as the College invites the community to join the campus in this exploration of important and timely topics - to include women's rights, gay rights, disability rights, and issues of class and economic justice.

"Creating Equality" will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 26, at the Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium in the MCLA Church Street Center at 7:30 p.m., when author and musician James McBride returns to the College for an evening of music and the spoken word. The event is free and open to the public.

McBride will read excerpts from his latest book, "The Good Lord Bird," which follows the life of the legendary abolitionist, John Brown. McBride considers Brown, one of the catalysts of the Civil War, to be one of America's unsung heroes. In addition to discussing Brown, he will perform with four gospel singers.

Other "Creating Equality" events will include the Third Annual Michael S. and Kitty Dukakis Public Policy Lecture, on Wednesday, Nov. 13, by former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young. A civil rights activist and pastor who also served as Mayor of Atlanta and as congressman for Georgia's 5th congressional district, Young will present "A Continuing Legacy."

In addition, on March 4, 2014, MCLA will present a spring Public Policy Lecture, "The Progression of Feminism: Where are we going?" with writer, lecturer, editor and feminist activist Gloria Steinem.

Starting in October, MCLA will kick off a series of four documentary films, "Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle." These screenings are intended to encourage conversation about the changing meanings of freedom and equality in America.

These free presentations are part of the "Bridging Cultures" initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which aims to use the power of documentary films to encourage community discussion of America's civil rights history. For this series, NEH partnered with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to develop programmatic and support materials.

According to Dr. Ely Janis, MCLA history professor, the films will center on the important struggles undertaken to achieve equality in the U.S. Each film will be followed by a community discussion.

Jonathan Secor, director of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, said he is very excited about the College's year-long look at civil rights and the opportunity to participate through events in conjunction with MCLA Gallery 51, MCLA Presents!, Tricks of the Trade and DownStreet Art.

"We look at civil rights issues often. It's something our programming is about - raising issues, opening ideas up for conversation. So, this is a continuation of something we would normally do, but now it's under a bigger effort or umbrella that's school-wide," Secor said.

In MCLA Gallery 51 though Sept. 22 is "A Marriage: 1 (Suburbia)," a mixed-media exhibition by artists and collaborators Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin, who blend performance, installation, video and works on paper and they reappropriate and repurpose suburban iconography regarding marriage.

On Saturday, Oct. 5, MCLA Presents! will offer "Word Becomes Flesh," a series of performed letters to an unborn son, presented through the spoken word, dance and live music as a young, single father documents nine months of pregnancy. A discussion, "Trayvon, Race and Being a Black Man in America" will precede the performance.

In the spring, MCLA students will present a Main Stage Theatre production of playwright Tony Kushner's "Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes." Also this spring, MCLA will offer a travel course for MCLA students about U.S. civil rights movements. This course will include a week-long bus tour of civil rights monuments.

Through the "Creating Equality" series, the MCLA community will examine and honor the dedication, leadership and sacrifice that make social change possible. Through courses, conversations, cultural programs and leadership opportunities, faculty, staff and students will consider the accomplishments and challenges associated with all dimensions of human rights, including racial equality, women's rights, gay rights, immigrants' rights and economic equity.

MCLA is proud to honor these movements and the individuals who have led and supported them, and to provide a platform for discussion of these important issues. "Creating Equality" will celebrate the progress that has been made and challenge the community to understand and become involved with the ongoing national debate about civil rights.

For more information and a complete listing of "Creating Equality" events, go to creatingequality, gallery51, presents and notablespeakers/publicpolicylecture.

The Public Policy Lecture Series is made possible through the generosity of the Ruth Proud Charitable Trust