Vol. LXIV, No. 3
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The power of art and action were twin themes Monday at Princeton Universitys annual celebration honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. The event featured artwork, music, poetry, and a keynote address by Professor Tricia Rose, a scholar of African American culture and Chair of the Department of Africana Studies at Brown University.
Held at Richardson Auditorium on Monday, the celebration also saw the presentation of awards to contest winners in grades 4 through 12 from area schools for literary, visual arts, or video projects.
The students were asked to create something that might transform the consciousness of American citizens, champion Dr. Kings dream for a society that is structurally and morally just, and further the idea of equality that is embedded in the ideals of the American dream.
University President Shirley Tilghman lauded the students, paraphrasing Paul Klee, Art does not reproduce what we see; it makes us see.
A video by Stuart Country Day School 7th grader Devon Fitzgerald entitled We Will Not Be Silenced, emphasized Dr. Kings words, Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter, before exploring the economic collapse and its effect on unemployment, the rate of which is higher among minority groups.
The plight of Haiti in the wake of the earthquake was frequently mentioned throughout the event, with Ms. Tilghman suggesting that if Dr. King were alive today, he would urge everyone to find a way to help the people of Haiti. Each of us has the responsibility to be an agent of change, she said.
Singer-songwriter Lynnette Williams, who performed during the celebration, dedicated a song to Haiti, while Ms. Rose noted in her address that the collision of forces that came together in Haiti were both man-made and natural disasters, explaining that the colonialism and post-colonial occupation had put certain stresses on the country prior to the earthquake. There are things we cannot change and stop, and there are things we can, she said.
Ms. Rose observed that the extraordinary generosity around the world in response to the earthquake was deeply moving. Quoting Dr. King, she said, We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.
In these moments we turn to the things that inspire us most in order to survive, she noted, emphasizing the value of art.
Of the student work showcased during the event, Ms. Rose said, The entries I saw were reflective, thoughtful efforts there is a gift in that. All of them captured the sense of urgency of these issues its about getting us to think together and act.
Ms. Rose read a line from Dr. Kings 1964 Nobel Prize acceptance speech (Weve allowed how we live to be more important than the ends to which we live), observing that if that was true then, then it is even more true today.
Art can help to mediate that division and create joy, Ms. Rose suggested. Art helps us feel the places that we all share . Art helps us see both the individual expression and the connectedness beneath that.
Art moves us, connects us, and inspires us to do the kind of truth-telling we all must do, with beauty and a sense of possibility, she said.
Additionally, Vice President for Campus Life Janet Smith Dickerson received the Journey Award for Lifetime Service, which is presented to a member of the faculty, staff, or student body, who best represents the continued journey to achieve Dr. Kings vision for America. Princeton University sophomore Allen Williams also presented an original poem during the King Day celebration.
Local officials present at the event included Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman, Borough Council President Andrew Koontz, and Township Committee member Lance Liverman.
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