I decided to take the course because it was recommended to me by a friend who raved about the deep level of discussion on topics such as race and current civil rights issues in America.LISA WITMER '07 — MIT News, 12 Jan 2007
Cameras were installed in Lobby 10 to watch the Martin Luther King, Jr. seminar exhibit, a frequent target of vandalism. It is unclear how long the cameras will remain or how long the recorded footage will be retained. Photo (top): Nicholas Chornay, The Tech 2010
In response to the earthquake in Haiti in January of 2010, the IAP MLK Design Seminar created a Lobby 10 installation showing pictures of victims after the catastrophe, a model of the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince that had been destroyed in the earthquake, and informative pamphlets on the history and current crises in the country. Students also collected donations and planned a Haiti Relief Diversity Dinner in Walker Memorial to raise funds for the Partners in Health Relief Efforts. Photo (bottom): Vibin Kundukulam, The Tech 2010
Pres. Susan Hockfield and Prof. J. Phillip Thompson, Chair of the Committee on Race and Diversity, issued a statement in response to vandalism of the MLK exhibit. The displays were meant to promote diversity and human rights. The installation “On the Shoulders of Giants” with cardboard cutouts of Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, and Dr. King was altered. The cardboard cutout of Lincoln was removed and replaced with a cardboard cutout of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin. A display about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict was removed in its entirety.
This is the seventh year for the MLK Design Seminar, led by Tobie Weiner, undergraduate administrator in the Department of Political Science. Each year it becomes more popular. "People are telling people about it," Weiner said. Through discussion groups, readings and guest speakers, students delve into issues of race and equality they might not explore throughout the year. Together, they decide on a project that reflects the work they have done. Past projects have included work in the Cambridge Public Schools, educating the children about King and the civil rights movement, race and race relations. Students also organized a Boston Martin Luther King Dream Dinner as a fundraiser to contribute to the MLK memorial fund in Washington, D.C. Another group from a past course created a DVD with MIT faculty and administrators, as well as alumni, who spoke about "the changing face of MIT in terms of diversity," Weiner said.
Vandals defaced the Martin Luther King Jr. display in Lobby 10 last Saturday and Tuesday nights. James Pacella, a student who helped build the display, said, "The whole purpose of the installation this year was to answer the question, have we lived up to the dream? … The vandalism only shows that we still have a ways to go to live up to the dream."
Lisa Witmer '07 helped to design a bus installation in Lobby 10. "We chose to make the focus of the installation a bus in order to commemorate Rosa Parks and her contributions to the beginnings of the civil rights movement in Montgomery, Alabama," Witmer said. "My group designed the exterior of the bus with recent newspaper articles about race-related crimes and injustices to serve as a reminder to people that the civil rights movement did not end decades ago, but rather is an issue that Americans are still dealing with today."
Senior Ryan Richardson '06 also contributed to the final installation last year in Lobby 10. For him, the course is an eye-opener. "All things considered, MLK offers students the opportunity to interact with other students across racial and cultural lines," he said. "It's real and unpretentious, and allows you to meet people from different living groups often defined by race and/or culture lines." Photo: Donna Coveney, MIT News 2006
A black male walks up to a restaurant counter and asks for a cup of coffee. The white waitress behind the counter snubs him and attends to the white female who comes in after him.
The waitress and customer are just 7th graders, and the counter is just a desk in Gretchen Brion Meisels’ language arts class at Fletchard Maynard Academy, only a stone’s throw away from MIT’s campus. On this day, her students are participating in discussions of race and diversity with MIT students as part of a class project in the Martin Luther King Jr. Design seminar (17.920).
“It’s always important to make time for conversations about race and diversity,” BrionMeisels says. “It’s easy for teachers to lose track of this dialogue.”
The MLK Design Seminar began in January 1999. Since then, MIT and Wellesley students have worked together to create artistic and political installations that have been placed in MIT's Lobby 7 and Lobby 10 to coincide with the university's celebration of Dr. King.
Past years' projects have included work with children and adults in the Cambridge Community Centers, original songs and performances, benefits for charities, various features in The Tech (MIT's oldest and largest newspaper) and other publications, and special projects.
In the first half of the class, MIT and Wellesley students develop an in-depth understanding of the history of US racial issues, as well as past and present domestic and international political struggles. The issues of justice, equality and racism are addressed through videos, readings and writings, and class discussions.
In the second half, students work as a group to complete the installation and other projects which will serve as models for connecting academics with real life problems and struggle.
In designing the installation or project, participants in the seminar may address aspects of the theme of the honored speaker and the celebration in addition to their thoughts on civil and human rights, justice, equality, race, racism and the principles of Dr. King.
The installation and projects will serve as a model for connecting academics and education with real life problems and struggle. It is hoped that the seminar and the projects will encourage interaction and foster communication among members of the MIT community with diverse backgrounds.