From The Journal of Transport History, 1 December 2017

Book Review by Gordon Prie of Matatu: A History of Popular Transportation in Nairobi by Kenda Mutongi




Nomination deadline: 11:59 pm on FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2017

The MLK Jr. Leadership Awards are given annually to students, alumni, staff, groups, and faculty who embody the spirit of Dr. King’s work. “Service to the community” is defined in the broadest sense and includes academic, research, religious, and secular contributions in which integrity, leadership, creativity, and positive outcome are apparent. Read some tips for preparing your nomination.

We will honor the winners as part of our annual MLK program, to be held on February 8, 2018. See the list of previous MLK Leadership Award Recipients.

Questions or comments? Contact Tobie Weiner (email or phone 617-253-3649) or Acia Adams-Heath (email or phone 617-253-2792).



To the members of the MIT community,

It is hard to think of a time when our nation more urgently needed the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Even at the distance of decades, we can take inspiration from his character and his conduct—his dignity, integrity, selflessness and moral vision, and his relentless focus on what really matters, in the quest for a more just, peaceful and unified society.

Please nominate the leaders who lift us up!

I ask that we pause, here in our own time and place, to contemplate the example of those members of our community who, in the spirit of Dr. King, lift us up and bring us together.

Today I urge you to nominate those whose inspiration you find meaningful—students, faculty, staff or alumni, pursuing their work as individuals or as groups—to receive the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award.

  • Please submit your nomination by December 15 here. You can find more details at the foot of this letter.
  • We will honor the winners as part of our annual MLK program, to be held on February 8, 2018.

I hope you will join me in thanking all those who commit their time and energy to this difficult and deeply important work.


L. Rafael Reif



The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award

The Award is given annually to students, alumni, staff and faculty whose service embodies the spirit of Dr. King’s work.

Who is eligible?

MIT alumni/ae, undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff are eligible for nomination for this award. Both individuals and groups, including living groups and student and professional associations, may be considered.

Service to the community is defined in the broadest sense and includes academic, research, religious and secular contributions in which integrity, leadership, creativity and positive outcome are apparent.

How do I submit a nomination?

If you wish to nominate a person or organization, please submit your nomination here by December 15, 2017.

Members of the MLK celebration planning committee will select the awardees. Recipients will be announced at MIT’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. event and program on February 8, 2018.

If you have questions, please contact Acia Adams-Heath ( or Tobie Weiner (

Who serves on the MLK Celebration Planning Committee (MLK CPC)?

  • Acia Adams-Heath, MLK CPC Staff Co-Chair, Senior Staff Accountant, Sponsored Accounting
  • Edmund Bertschinger, Institute Community and Equity Officer
  • Dextina Booker, Graduate Student, Integrated Design and Management Program
  • La-Tarri Canty, Director, Multicultural Programs, Student Activities Office
  • Sharon D. Clarke, Senior Human Resources Consultant, Information Systems & Technology
  • Catherine Gamon, Director, Student Life for Master’s Programs, Sloan School of Management
  • Jerome Friedman, Institute Professor Emeritus
  • Sally Haslanger, Professor, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
  • Alyce Johnson, Manager of Staff Diversity and Inclusion, Human Resources Department
  • Heather Konar, Communications Officer, Office of Graduate Education
  • Deborah Liverman, Director, Career Services, MIT Global Education and Career Development
  • Tanya Llanas, Undergraduate Student, Brain and Cognitive Sciences
  • Ceasar McDowell, Professor, Department of Urban Studies and Planning
  • Paul Parravano, Co-director, Office of Government and Community Relations
  • Zina Queen, MLK CPC Staff Co-Chair, Administrative Assistant II, Department of Political Science
  • Christine Reif
  • Tobie Weiner, Undergraduate Administrator, Department of Political Science


Plantation Weddings and the Arc of Antebellum Desire

Kimberly J. BrownMLK Visiting Assistant Professor, Women’s & Gender Studies and by Literature at MIT

Thursday, December 7, 2017 @ 12-1:30 pm
MIT Room E51-095
Lunch provided, please RSVP to

Plantations wedding venues, particularly in the US South, spatially reconstruct antebellum slave mansions as serene sites of joy. This talk will examine the politics of race, gender, and patriarchy that center on the unfreedom of others.


From Williams Magazine, Fall 2017

Matatu: A History of Popular Transportation in Nairobi by Kenda Mutongi
The University of Chicago Press, 2017


Kenda Mutongi was walking along a street in Nairobi, thinking about what she’d like to research for her second book, when she realized the answer was right in front of her. “Matatus are everywhere, but we don’t know anything about them,” says the history professor. “All we know is their bad reputation.”

Matatu is the word used in Kenya for the minibuses ubiquitous throughout Africa. In Nairobi, they transport more than 2 million people per day, from commuters on their way to work to mothers bringing children to doctors’ appointments and kids headed to school. But matatu drivers and conductors are considered dangerous and are blamed for much of what can feel like the chaos of this large city.

“They are looked down upon and thought to be corrupt,” says Mutongi. “Foreigners consider matatus too dangerous to ride, and they write them off as unimportant. But so many people depend on them.”

In her new book, Matatu, Mutongi traces the history of this industry. “I hope my book helps dismantle the notion that the only way Africans can earn money is if an NGO comes in and sets people to making beads, jewelry or baskets,” she says. “We need to hear more stories like those of the people in the matatu industry, who have created a highly profitable business.”

Mutongi, who is originally from Kenya, has been teaching courses in African history at Williams since 1995. Her first book, Worries of the Heart: Widows, Family and Community in Kenya, was published in 2007.




Double Elegy: African American Cultural Production and the Poetics of Loss

Kimberly J. BrownMLK Visiting Assistant Professor, Women’s & Gender Studies and by Literature at MIT

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 @ 5-6:30 pm
MIT Room 14N-417

This talk considers the elegy as the doubling mechanism of African American cultural engagement. At once firmly situated within and excluded from a visible poetics of loss, black writers and artists pursue alternate structures of memory-making and mourning rituals. These include music, photography, and performance. Ultimately, these multivalent productions of mourning allow for the possibility of consolation, but resolution is always in flux. The talk will examine the fissures and fixations of black suffering.



The Gender/Race Imperative: The Future of Title IX

Anita Hill participated in CNN’s town hall titled “Tipping Point: Sexual Harassment in America” on November 9, 2017.

In light of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men in the media and government, Hill said that the strong focus on sexual misconduct is like nothing she’s ever seen and she’s hopeful that it will “bring lasting change.” She also stated that, although the believability factor needs to shift in all sexual misconduct cases, marginalized groups are met with an additional level of skepticism.
It’s been 26 years since Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her when he was her boss. Today, Thomas sits on the Supreme Court bench.





Undoing ‘Generations of Rank Discrimination’: Inclusive Communities and the Future of Anti-Bias Forensics

Anita HillMLK Visiting Professor of Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) 

Tuesday, October 17
MIT Room 6-104 (Chipman Room)

In June, in a decision that promises to energize American desegregation efforts, the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed a broad interpretation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. The Court confirmed that the law proscribes not only overt, intentional acts of discrimination but also policies and practices that are “fair in form, but discriminatory in operation.” I will discuss how the Court’s decision could change the way housing, employment and education bias cases are argued and proven. The talk’s title is inspired by the words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who during the case’s oral arguments reminded listeners that the “grand goal” of the Fair Housing Act was to “undo generations of rank discrimination.

This talk will be accessible to a general audience. We ask that you register here. If you are able to attend, please reply to Shauna Bush-Fenty ( with any dietary restrictions, accessibility considerations or other needs.


The Gender/Race Imperative: The Future of Title IX

Anita Hill will be moderating a series of presentations and workshops entitled The Gender/Race Imperative. It aims to revive awareness of the broad capacity of Title IX, the crucial law mandating equal education opportunities for women. The hope is that the series will kick start inquiry to foster legal, policy, and social reforms that enable success in schools and workplaces for girls and women of all races and economic backgrounds. To engage and educate MIT and the broader Boston area community on the role of Title IX in education, particularly for STEM, MIT brings engineers and other scientists together in conversation with lawyers and social scientists to develop multidimensional strategies for promoting equity in STEM.

First in the series is “The Future of Title X”
Tuesday October 3rd, 2017
Doors open at 3:30PM
Presentation starts at 4:00PM
Walker Memorial – Building 50

Open to the public, no registration required

Hosted by:
  • Muriel Medard – Cecil H. Green Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, Research Laboratory of Electronics, MIT
  •  Anita Hill – MIT Martin Luther King Fellow, University Professor of Law, Public Policy and Women’s Studies, Heller Graduate School of Policy and Management, Brandeis University
Guest speakers:
  • Catherine Lhamon – Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Former Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education
  • Deborah Slaner Larkin – Chief, Advocacy Officer at the Women’s Sports Foundation
  • Fatima Goss Graves – Director of the National Women’s Law Center
Lhamon, Larkin, and Graves are national authorities on Title IX, each of whom brings a different perspective on how this civil rights law works and how to strengthen its effectiveness.  In this first in a series of programs, these speakers will familiarize the audience with the many ways which Title IX insures that no person “shall be excluded from participation, in be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”  As well, each speaker will provide an assessment of Title IX’s influence going forward.




Garnette Cadogan: The Future of New Writing

The Future of New Writing: Introducing Freeman’s Issue Four

Garnette Cadogan is among the 29 writers whose work “will continue to be traveling into the future—perhaps even define it,” according to Freeman’s. The literary journal is a new biannual of unpublished writing by former Granta editor and National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) president John Freeman, which brings together the best new fiction, nonfiction, and poetry around a single theme.

Says Freeman:

On occasion here, writers allow us to see them making themselves, like an artist painting his own portrait into a large fresco. In a moving personal essay, Garnette Cadogan reveals how a childhood of step-parental abuse forced him to think of himself as a character destined for abuse or revenge.

The Future of New Writing will be launched in New York City, Thursday October 5th at the New School, 66 West 12th Street, with Garnette Cadogan, Elaine Castillo, Valeria Luiselli and Dinaw Mengestu. Tickets are available here.





Tuesday, September 19, 2017
11:45 am – 1 pm
MIT Room 6-104 (Chipman Room)

Please join us in our first 2017-2018 monthly MLK Scholars luncheon on Tuesday, September 19 in 6-104. All members of the MIT community are welcome!

Lunch will be served. Please inform us of any dietary restrictions or preferences.