On the 89th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s birth, thousands of students, faculty, community members, and out-of-towners gathered in Hill auditorium for the annual MLK Jr. Day Symposium. This year’s speaker was Hill Harper, a renowned actor, author, and activist who serves as the National Spokesperson for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. He was accompanied by Aisha Fukushima, a singer and songwriter who founded Raptivism, a global hip hop project which highlights “ways in which culture can actively contribute to universal efforts for freedom and justice.”
In his speech, Harper stressed the importance of the power of the people and the power is the people. With a booming voice and exuberant energy he encouraged the crowd to use “[their] potential energy and turn it into kinetic energy” as a means of fighting for justice and defeating the “apathetic agendas that out energy us.” He reminded us that Dr. King stood in Hill auditorium in November of 1962, and used this connection as inspiration when he quoted Dr. King: “we are tied together in a single garment of destiny.”
Harper’s infectious energy and commitment to his statement that “we must not lose sight of our humanity” was elevated through Aisha Fukushima’s beautiful performance of “Flint,” a song she wrote in response to the water crisis plaguing Flint, Michigan, and other cities across the world. In response to Harper’s call to utilize energy and fight for justice, Fukushima sang,“Stand up! It’s time to fight.”
Thanks to the efforts of the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives (OAMI) and members of the MLK Jr. Day Symposium Planning Committee, thousands of Wolverines and non-Wolverines were able to receive and digest the inspiring words of Hill Harper and Aisha Fukushima on this chilly Monday afternoon. Both of these special guests are prime examples of people who embody Dr. King’s “ fierce urgency of now,” the theme of this year’s symposium.
Contributed by Gabriel Coleman, Expect Respect