Skip to main content

Founder of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee headlines Vanderbilt University events honoring life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Jan. 8, 2009, 9:30 AM

Charles McDew, a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and its chairman from 1961 to 1964, will deliver the keynote lecture for Vanderbilt University’s 2009 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Series.

The theme of this year’s series is “Prophets, Politics and Patriotism.” Events are scheduled Jan. 13-31 and are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.

McDew’s talk, “Votes, Voices and Victory: How far have we come?,” is part of a celebration of King’s legacy that will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 19, at Benton Chapel located at the university’s Divinity School. The event will also feature student performances by Vanderbilt’s Jeremiah Generation Praise Team and VU Spoken Word, as well as, Nashville a capella group Nu Image. A reception will precede the event at 5 p.m. in Benton Chapel.

In 1960, black college students organized to form SNCC to fight segregation. Under McDew’s direction, SNCC hired organizers called field secretaries to develop local leadership in civil rights activities in small towns throughout the South. SNCC concentrated its efforts on voter registration, education and community organizing.

A screening of Freedom Song, a 2000 film made for television based on the accounts of SNCC members – particularly McDew, kicks off Vanderbilt’s MLK Series Tuesday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m. at Sarratt Cinema on campus. Vanderbilt Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Lucius Outlaw will lead a discussion following the film.

Other events scheduled during the series include a Jan. 19 talk by Lesego Motsumi, minister of health for the Republic of Botswana, in Room 208 of Light Hall at the university’s medical center.

For a complete list of events scheduled see below. Information is also available at www.vanderbilt.edu/mlk or by calling Vanderbilt’s Office of Religious Life at 322-2457.

Prophets, Politics, and Patriotism: The 2009 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Series


All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.

Tuesday, Jan. 13

Freedom Song (film)
7 p.m., Sarratt Cinema
Freedom Song stars Danny Glover, David Strathairn and Vicellous Shannon and is the story of the Civil Rights Movement as seen through the eyes of a teenage Owen Walker (Shannon) growing up in Mississippi in the 1960s. Owen regrets his father’s (Glover) passive behavior against racism and joins the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as they struggle to re-educate black citizens and gain basic human rights, predominately the right to vote. The film is based on accounts of SNCC members, particularly Charles McDew, who will deliver the keynote address for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Series at Vanderbilt. Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Lucius Outlaw will lead a discussion following the film.

Thursday, Jan. 15

Lecture: How the housing crisis has affected African American wealth
Noon, Flynn Auditorium, Vanderbilt University Law School

Melvin Oliver, professor of sociology and dean of social sciences in the College of Letters and Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, will address the ways in which the regulatory failures in the mortgage and housing industries have had disproportionate effect on wealth accumulation by African Americans in the United States.

“Was Reverend King [Un]Patriotic?: Examining American Patriotism in Light of Religious Difference, Prophetic Preaching, and Party Alliance”
7 p.m., Flynn Auditorium, Vanderbilt University Law School

Community members and members of Vanderbilt’s faculty discuss King’s patriotism from the perspectives of American history, liberation theology, Black Church Studies, comparative religion, religion in America, political science and Buddhist-Christian dialogue. Participating faculty include:

Lewis Baldwin, professor of religious studies
Forest Harris, assistant professor of the practice of ministry and director of the Kelly Miller Smith Institute on the African-American Church
Kathleen Flake, associate professor of American religious history
John Thatamanil, assistant professor of theology
Shauna St. Clair, third-year Master’s of Divinity student
Panel facilitated by Paul Lim, assistant professor of history of Christianity and Religious Studies, and Tiffany Patterson, associate professor of African American and Diaspora Studies and American Studies

Monday, Jan. 19

Lecture by Lesego Motsumi, minister of health, Republic of Botswana
Noon, Room 208, Light Hall, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Presentation followed by a reception in Minister Motsumi’s honor.

“Making Progress Happen for People with Disabilities – Past, Present, and Future”
4:10 p.m., Room 241, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center/MRL Bldg, Peabody Campus

Robert Silverstein, director of the Center for the Study and Advancement of Disability Policy and principal of Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville, P.C., will deliver the latest installment in the Kennedy Center’s series “Lectures on Development and Developmental Disabilities,” followed by a reception.

Keynote Event – featuring Charles McDew
5 p.m. reception, 6 p.m. event, Benton Chapel

An event celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. featuring a lecture – “Votes, Voices and Victory: How far have we come?” – by Charles McDew, a founder and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), MLK Jr. Day candlelight vigil and student performances by Vanderbilt’s Jeremiah Generation Praise Team and VU Spoken Word, as well as, a capella group Nu Image.

Thursday, Jan. 22

“Social Responsibility in an Age of Scarcity: Realizing Economic Justice at Vanderbilt Today”
6 p.m., Room 114, Furman Hall

A panel discussion with the Rev. James Lawson and invited guests moderated by Eli Feghali, co-founder of Vanderbilt Students of Nonviolence that will honor King’s commitment to economic justice by initiating a discussion at Vanderbilt about our own responsibility as workers and consumers within the second largest private employer in Tennessee. An open discussion between students, faculty, administration and workers will be the first step to coming together around our shared priorities and values.

Saturday, Jan. 24

Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical and Essay Contest Winners’ Reading & Luncheon
Noon, Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center

* Participation in this event is not open to the public.
Young people from the Nashville community will recite their winning essays and poems on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Winning entries were chosen by a Vanderbilt University committee.

Saturday, Jan. 31

Blair Global Music Series
8 p.m., Steve and Judy Turner Recital Hall, Blair School of Music

A recital of song by African American composers by Blair School alumna Candace Kerr Johnson, soprano

Media Contact: Princine Lewis, (615) 322-NEWS
Princine.lewis@vanderbilt.edu

VIEW MORE EVENTS >