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Campus to celebrate 'Creating Equality'

08/28/2013

In recognition of the many 50-year anniversaries of key events in the United States' civil rights movement, MCLA will explore its legacy and impact on American society through a series of year-long programming this academic year.

These "Creating Equality" events - most of which will be free and open to the public - will include speakers, discussions, films, art exhibitions, performing arts events, and much more.

Key events of the civil rights movement in the U.S. that happened 50 years ago include the March on Washington, the "I Have a Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"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.

To plan the programming, faculty from a broad range of departments came together to think about connections and what they'd like to put together for the year ahead. The many related issues include women's rights, gay rights, disability rights, and issues of social class and economic justice.

"We will look at what it meant to people 50 years ago, and what these things continue to mean to us," Brown said. "The Supreme Court still hears cases about voting rights. These are not settled issues or questions. Dr. King was assassinated in April 1968, on the eve of joining a march for economic justice with striking sanitation workers. People forget that he had started to move his attention to economic justice issues by the end of his life."

This year's "Creating Equality" events will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26, in the MCLA Church Street Center with bestselling author and musician James McBride. His latest book, The Good Lord Bird, is a mixture of history and imagination that follows the life of the legendary abolitionist John Brown.

In addition to a musical performance to include four gospel singers, McBride will discuss Brown as he inspires and educates the audience through music, laughter and the spoken word.

Events also will include a Michael S. and Kitty Dukakis Public Policy Lecture to be presented 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" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13. Also, next March 4, MCLA will present the spring 2014 Public Policy Lecture, "The Progression of Feminism: Where are we going?" with writer, lecturer, editor and feminist activist Gloria Steinem.

Beginning in October, a series of four documentary films, "Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle," will be screened 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. NEH partnered with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to develop programmatic and support materials.

"Each film will be followed by a discussion, and we hope people throughout the MCLA community and the Berkshires will attend and participate in these important conversations," said Dr. Ely Janis, history professor.

This 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.

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.

For more information about this year's "Creating Equality" events, go to www.mcla.edu/creatingequality, www.mcla.edu/gallery51 and www.mcla.edu/presents.

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