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Angela Davis and Lupe Fiasco Headline Lehigh MLK Jr. Event

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Author, educator and activist Angela Davis and hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco will visit Lehigh on Tuesday, January 21 in celebration of the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The conversation will also focus on current civil rights challenges, especially the criminal justice system. Their visit headlines the revamped, year-long focus on social justice led by Lehigh’s MLK planning committee, and will be moderated by James Peterson, director of Africana Studies and professor of English.

Tyrone Russell, director of multicultural affairs and co-chair of the planning committee, says that a unique, conversational format will expand the opportunity for dialogue.

"We've had speakers in the past and there has been some opportunity for questions and answers," says Russell. "This approach pairs two very different individuals with unique perspectives in a conversation with a scholar who is extremely well-versed on these critical issues. We're hoping for a deeper dialogue that the campus community will find very engaging."

Lupe Fiasco (l) and Angela Davis (r)

Angela Davis first achieved fame in the 1960s as a prominent, outspoken activist on issues related to social justice and equality. The author of eight books and a sought-after lecturer, she has spent the past 15 years at the University of California Santa Cruz, where she is now Distinguished Professor Emerita of history of consciousness, an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program, and feminist studies.

Davis is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to the dismantling of the prison industrial complex. Internationally, she is affiliated with Sisters Inside, an abolitionist organization based in Queensland, Australia that works in solidarity with women in prison.

Davis’ work in recent years has focused on the range of social problems associated with incarceration and communities most affected by poverty and racial discrimination. Her most recent books are Abolition Democracy and Are Prisons Obsolete?, about the abolition of the prison industrial complex, and a new edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

A Grammy-nominated artist, Lupe Fiasco has been praised for philosophical, sharp and dynamic lyrics. Once named one of GQ Magazine’s “Man of the Year” and Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Artist to Watch,” his work has received critical and commercial acclaim. His debut album Food & Liquor reached number eight on the Billboard 200, and his follow-up, The Cool, attained RIAA Gold certification.

LASERS, his third studio album, debuted as the number one album in the country in 2011 and his most recent release, Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1, was hailed as one of the best albums of 2012 by USA Today. His next album,Tetsuo & Youth is slated for release in 2014.
A Year-long Focus On Social Justice

In previous years, groups of staff, faculty and students planned a series of events in mid-January to honor King. This year, however, the planning committee upgraded the week-long celebration to a year of active reflection and dialogue about the causes for which King is remembered.

This year’s planning committee, under the direction of Russell and Lloyd Steffen, professor of religion studies and university chaplain, is aiming to engage the university community throughout the academic year. Among the first events held on campus was the “Trayvon Martin, Race and Justice” discussion held in October.

“It’s not just a celebration for a week,” says Russell. “It’s more effective to institutionalize these beliefs across our campus in different forums and in ongoing conversation. We want to look at all ways to engage—across the campus and with local groups—and we want to find ways to look at what’s happening at the national level and make those issues relevant for our campus community.”

In addition to the series of events, Lehigh will continue to honor the contributions of those whose abilities and achievements uphold and exemplify the teachings and ideals of King through the annual MLK awards. Nominations are now open.

In addition to Russell, Steffen, and Peterson, MLK Committee members include Gordon Moskowitz, psychology professor and department chair; Monica Miller, professor of religion studies and Africana Studies; Darius Williams, professor of theatre and Africana Studies; Silagh White, director of arts engagement and cultural affairs; Allyson Baer ’12, a graduate student in comparative and international education; Brenda Martinez ’15, a journalism major and founder of Dream and Act LU; Karl Brisseaux ’11, communications associate and a graduate student in American Studies, and Linda Harbrecht, director of communications.
Photos courtesy of Angela Davis and
by Karl Brisseaux '11
Reprinted from Inside Lehigh

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