We have slipped in some of the categories of minorities at MIT over the last 10 to 15 years. The MLK Visiting Professor program is only one mechanism to create the presence of minority faculty on this campus.

LEE OSGOOD - Assoc. Dean, Head of Office of Minority Education, and 1999 MLK Celebration Committee Co-chair

1999   25th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration


Teaching and Learning: The Key to Full Inclusion


Kweisi Mfume
President and CEO, NAACP
Former United States Representative


Alexander Slocum '82, SM '83, PhD '85
Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Richard Williamson '85
Math Teacher, Boston Public Schools

Adriana L. Holguin '99
Mechanical Engineering


10th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Conference:
Cyber Sisters and Virtual Visionaries


Inaugural IAP MLK Design Seminar
"Reflections: A tribute to all individuals who have supported the struggle for human rights"


'Ain'a That Good News' Gospel Quartet
Semenya McCord and Associates
"Journey Into a Dream"

South Mass Choir
Directed by Darryll Matson


AP Photo/Roberto Borea

AP Photo/Roberto Borea

Kweisi Mfume is the former president and chief executive officer of the NAACP and former US Representative.

Associate Dean Leo M. Osgood Jr., chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, said, "Congressman Mfume is an outstanding speaker with an impressive background. I'm sure his speech will help make the 25th celebration a memorable event."

Mr. Mfume, whose West African name means "conquering son of kings," resigned as the US representative from Maryland's seventh Congressional district in 1996 when he was named to the NAACP positions. He had been a member of Congress for 10 years and chaired the joint Senate-House Economic Committee.

He also served on the Ethics Committee, the Banking and Financial Services Committee, the Committee on Education and the Small Business Committee, and he chaired the Congressional Black Caucus for two years. Before he was elected to Congress, Mr. Mfume was a Baltimore city councilman for seven years.

A native of Baltimore, Mr. Mfume graduated cum laude in 1976 from Morgan State University, where he edited the student newspaper and headed the Black Student Union. He also holds a master's degree in international studies from Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Mfume serves on the Morgan State University Board of Regents, the Senior Advisory Committee of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the Meyor-hoff National Advisory Board of the University of Maryland, and the Board of Trustees for the Enterprise Foundation. He is also a member of Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Mr. Mfume is the second high-level NAACP executive to address the MIT breakfast.

--MIT News Office, 9 Dec 1998

Teaching and Learning: The Key to Full Inclusion

Presented at the 25th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast Celebration
February 4, 1999

The Honorable Kweisi Mfume
President and CEO, NAACP

Thank you. Thank you very much. Allow me, if I might, to begin my remarks by thanking Dr. Vest for those kind and overly gracious set of comments, and for his leadership at this historic university. But probably this morning, more than anything else, for being a buffer between me and the two very impressive students that spoke before me. I am particularly happy, Dr. Vest, that you invoked the name of Leon Higganbotham, who was a very dear friend and probably the most important reason why I left my work in the Congress to join the NAACP. After many conversations with Judge Higganbotham and after many opportunities to understand his reasoning as to why it was important for me to do that, I ultimately did just that. And was here just a couple of months ago to participate in his home going service, and would say to particularly students who may have not had the opportunity to meet Leon Higganbotham, that you find a way to either get to the library or to get back onto the Internet, or to get to someone who did, to find out about this extraordinary individual. I'd also like to thank all of the people who have made this morning's event possible. There are a lot of them, and I was particularly happy last night that I got a chance to meet many of them. I'd like, if I might, on a point of personal privilege to really thank Dr. Leo Osgood and Professor Michael Fell. They have through perhaps some difficulty, but more importantly, through a number of different circumstances that we probably are not aware of, continue to find a way to make this possible and to remind all of us about the need to take time to commemorate and to remember. I want to also say to Provost Robert Brown, and all the others who have worked very hard on this event that I do thank you, and I know I speak on behalf of students who are here and those who are not, who recognize now, even if it is in hindsight, how important this remembrance is.To Ms. Gomez and Mr. Pinket, I want to thank both of you for your energy for the opportunity to meet you last night. But more importantly, for the energy and the sense of understanding you displayed a little while ago with respect to why it is important to remember. And I'd also, if I might, like to acknowledge, as was the case earlier, the presence of the mayor of Cambridge, and many, many other honored guests. Not the least of which are several distinguished members of our organization, our state conference president here in the New England area, Miss Charlotte Nelson, who is somewhere out there. Charlotte. And the presidents of our Boston and Cambridge chapters, Lenny Alkins, Jackie Carolle, I know Burt Berder [SP?] is here, and a few others. I think all of you for coming out and supporting me. And for coming out also to work with this community as you do day in and day out. Could we give all those persons a round of applause? I bring you greetings this morning on behalf of the NAACP. Our 1,700 branches in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Germany, Japan, and Korea. At the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People we believe that colored people come in all colors. For it was the NAACP that saw America through the troubled years of Jim Crow, and second-class citizenship and legal lynchings. Through the years of manufactured grandfather clauses and poll taxes and literacy tests, where you had to tell how many bubbles were in a bar of soap just to be allowed to vote. We fought, over the years, the just fight to integrate the military and to end official segregation as we knew it. And we found also a way to help a nation divided against itself through the confusion and the turbulence of the 1960s and then later through the 1-isms and the indifferences of the 1980s. So, it is not for us a matter of having come a long, long way, but rather and instead it is a matter of having still yet a long, long way to go. That, in turn, begs the question not when do we get there, but what path do we take. That is where your themes of teaching and learning and inclusion come into play. You see, the light really does burn bright here and for MIT. You are a place, in many respects, where, for some people, dreams have come true. And given birth to other dreams of service and academic excellence. You have been entrusted with a mighty vision, and you have proven in many respects to be worthy stewards. Some of you have worked hard to make sure that your talents are not buried in the ground, but rather, invested well in the arts and in the minds of our greatest asset, our young people. The late Dr. Benjamin May, of Morehouse College, once said that he or she who starts behind in the race of life, would either have to run faster or forever remain behind. Young men and women who have kept this tradition of remembering alive now for all these 25 years, in fact, have run faster. So, I applaud them, and those brave souls, no matter how small in number they may be who labor here at this university, who like tilers of the soil continue to push and to prod and cajole for a greater university commitment to diversity and equal opportunity. They know almost intuitively, that our ability as a nation to survive will depend particularly on how we deal with our increasingly pluralistic society. So, as a preface to my remarks, I would challenge others today to take the route that those individuals have taken. It is one of embracing diversity while seeking to promote reciprocal understandings. Recognizing as we do that, quite frankly it's easier to do nothing. So, because we all want to do something, let's start, if we might, by putting in proper context the man who we have come to commemorate this morning. The rabbi spoke of the Old Testament. Let me go even beyond the book of Exodus and to talk for just a moment about the book of Genesis, the 37th chapter, because it underscores in many respects the age old desire by a lot of people to undercut visionaries by trying to do away with their dreams. It says in the 37th chapter that, and when they saw him from afar, even before he had come near to them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another behold, the dreamer cometh. Come now, therefore, and let us slay him. We will cast him into some old pit, and say that some evil beast has devoured him. And we shall see what becomes of his dream. Martin Luther King, Jr., unawed by opinion, unseduced by flattery, undismayed by disaster, confronted life with the courage of his convictions and confronted death with the courage of his faith. And lest we ever forget, we are talking about a young man. Twenty-six years of age when his face first appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Thirty-five years of age when he won the Nobel Peace Price. Thirty-nine years of age on the afternoon of his assassination. It is important to understand that because it's important to have a full appreciation of his capacity and his indignation over the absence of justice. A Greek historian, at least legend has it, was once asked when would justice every come to Athens. And after thinking about the magnitude of the question, he thoughtfully replied that justice would never come to Athens until all of those who were not injured were just as indignant as all of those who are. And so I hope and pray that those of you in this room this morning who are Caucasian or white, that you understand the indignity of those like myself who are not, at the scourge of racism and bigotry and unequal treatment. And that you in your own way will become just as indignant. I hope and pray that those who are here today who are of Asian and Indian, Hispanic, and Native American ancestry, that you understand as we must the real need never to give up on the idea of coalition building even when some in your number and some in mine prefer to go the other way and to talk only about our individual agendas or the power of our individual groups. And I hope and pray that those of you who sit here today, who are African-American or of African ancestry, that you understand as we must, the real need at some point in time to get beyond blame, to get beyond excuses, and to start once again doing for ourselves. If we were to leave here and to go over to the lab, and sit before any computer, and to request from ourselves a simple computer printout of all the salient issues facing us as a nation, it is clear that the list of problems to be printed out by the computer would, in fact, be overwhelming. Institutionally, government, military, church, and school are all under attack for either real or imagined defects. Politically, the Joint Center for Political Studies in Washington would remind us that 35 years after passage of the Voting Rights Act and 30 years after outright efforts to register and to elect people that still in this country less than 7% of all the elected officials are of African or Hispanic or Asian ancestry. Socially, that same print out would suggest that the issue of race and skin color still dominate too many aspects of American life. Both at home and abroad. Economically, it would suggest to us in the clearest of terms that after four years of Congressional acquiescence to the concept of Robin Hood in reverse, the haves now have more and the have nots have not at all. The gap continues to widen. And educationally, it would point out the obvious. That too many of our public schools are overcrowded and ill equipped and drugs tend to be more available than textbooks. That too many young people in those schools, because they are locked there, are being promoted because of their age or because of their size only to be rewarded at the end of 12 years with the equivalent document that would suggest that it was certificate of attendance, but not a meaningful high school diploma. Yet we know that the student in those schools, not different from students in other schools, have one thing that defines them. That is that the student who makes the grade is still the one who comes early and stays late. To learn the meaning of the lesson, but never to lessen the meaning of assignment. That the teacher in those schools who makes the grade, is still the teacher who teaches the touch of life, and not just to make a living. Just a few months from now we will witness what many in the press will refer to as a celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. the Board of Topeka, Kansas. When on May 17, 1954, nine men robed in black assembled on that historic day to announce their unanimous verdict. There was, in fact, dancing in the streets. At black colleges, classes were suspended that day, and parties were hastily assembled. There was dancing in the streets of Richmond and Raleigh, and Baltimore, and Washington. People began to believe in their hearts and in the innermost parts of their being that our nation was at long last launched on an unalterable course with a firm determination that in terms of public education, we were now prepared to overcome the legacies of the past. But in 1969, just a decade or so later, a high ranking official in the White House, who is now a United States Senator, advised the president then, in what later became known as the celebrated memorandum on public education, when he said, Mr. President, we have made so much progress moving black people into the mainstream of American, economic educational, and social life that our nation's policies from this point on with respect to the status of those people ought be accorded benign neglect. That neglect, once proposed as benign in too many respects today for too many people, is a neglect that is malignant. So, when we think about Dr. King in his capacity, remember also what Randall said. This was an ordinary man who was called on to do extraordinary things. I underscore that because god still calls on ordinary people. All of us. As Booker T. Washington once said, to cast our buckets down where we are, to pick our own battlefield, and to make a difference in a real and meaningful way. When Dr. Vest talked about these attacks on the ability of young people to matriculate as the result of efforts to deny opportunity, that's all tied into the exact same thing. We know that affirmative action has met with resistance from its inception, and that lastly, for the last five years or so, there has been a sustained attack nationwide. A movement throughout the country to gut and to destroy affirmative action as we know it, and in the process, destroy diversity programs as well. Programs both in the workplace and on college campuses. Prop 209, Initiative 200, the University of Michigan case, which is now pending, the Hopwood decision in the aggregate, they chip away at the ability of people who come behind you or at least want to come behind you students to sit where you sit. Now, interestingly enough, the rationale for this attack has been unsubstantiated reports of widespread color blindness. People just say, well, you know, things are different, and we're a colorblind society, and so we don't need to help you with a Hispanic surname. We don't need to help you because you happen to be of African ancestry. We don't really need to help you either because you come from the Pacific Rim. We don't have to help you who grew up in Appalachia. We don't have to do anything for anybody because color blindness has broken out throughout this society. Oh, if that were the case. This program would be more than a celebration. It would be a magnificent celebration. So, I say to you and remind myself as we think about why we have come together, what it means to remember Dr. King, and what our own personal challenges. That it is not so much the hypocracies of the past, the things that we know about, that we find repulsive, the institution of slavery, the attacks on individuals because of their religious beliefs, the attacks on individuals because of their surnames, or because of their sexual preferences, it is not so much the hypocracies of the past as much as it is for those people of color, the hypocracies of the present. That's what should concern us. Item number one: in 1990, the Urban Institute bi-partisan funding, bi-partisan participation, conducted a nationwide study over a number of years and concluded, unequivocally, that there was unequal treatment of minority job seekers. Item number two: in 1991, the Holiday Health Spa club chain was found to have systematically discriminated against women of color. Item number three: in 1993, Denny's restaurant settled claims of discrimination because they refused to serve black customers who happened to be six gentlemen guarding the president as Secret Service agents, prepared to take a bullet that day to preserve democracy. Item number four: 1994, the Chevy Chase bank agrees to an $11 million settlement because they red-lined communities and neighborhoods, or at least were accused of doing it and refused to go into court to defend themselves as many other institutions had previously done. Item five: 1995, the Glass Ceiling Commission concludes that women, Hispanics, and AfricanAmericans are still disproportionately represented among the nation's working poor. Item six: 1996, Texaco, the infamous tape where executives are caught loosely making fun of Jewish holidays and black holidays, and referring to people as jelly beans of color, and talking very, very openly about why it's important not to let those people have an opportunity. And lastly, 1998, data released under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act showed nationwide that black and Latino borrowers were turned down at increasingly higher rates when applying for mortgage loans. More than 50% of all those who applied were denied loans at banks across this nation. And so, regrettably, discrimination is not an article of the past. It is, instead, an article of the present. So, what then really becomes our role in dealing with what we are faced with? We find ourselves living at a time when our sense of community can no longer be taken for granted. That's for sure. We find ourselves at a time where information technology has made it possible for us to communicate across oceans, across continents, across every conceivable boundary of race and culture, and to do that almost instantaneously, but our technology has almost also made it possible for us to be able to live and work in complete isolation from our neighbors and fellow citizens. Things have changed. It'd be nice to be like these birds, just fly around all day long. You know? Have a little bite to eat on that table, and fly up to the balcony. But things have changed. The common experiences that have made us recognize each other as members of a community of Americans are becoming less common each year. Scab labor, unbridled poverty, second-class citizenship, and violent crime chip away at that sense of community every day. Hate speech, hate groups, hate radio, and hate crimes are attempting to divide those same communities like never before. Yet, we know if we lose that sense of community, that same community that Martin King spoke about from an old Birmingham jail, we lose much of what has made America distinctive among the nations of the world. As foreign visitors have observed since the beginning of this Republic, America' s greatest strength has been her identity as a group and a collection of different people who's common destiny was more powerful than their diverse backgrounds or stations in life. That is why people in this country, under the umbrella of the NAACP and hundreds of other groups, have always made an attempt to try to communicate across lines of race, class, age, and religion.

It's not because they were foolish or foolhardy. It's because they understood the fact that it is harder to accept that the road less travelled is the road less certain. But it is the proper road for us to be on anyway. It is that path that Randall talked about. That we'd be out of the wilderness that makes a difference. The really, really understanding of what it means to be on a road less travelled. That whether or not street lights and paved sidewalks, where there is at each turn some degree of uncertainty, but certainly at the end of the road, if we are persistent, a great deal of satisfaction. That opposite path? The one that's paved and well lit? The one that we think has no curves? That's a path of cynicism, contempt, distrust, and suspicion. It is best espoused by the Timothy McVey's of this world. That road, to be sure, leads to separatism, suspicion, division, and destruction. So, collectively and individually, our charge has been renewed, regrettably, by an old plague that has come back to America. A plague that has resurfaced with great abandon. A national scourge, if you will, of insensitivity and intolerance. Whether it is the repugnant act of burning black churches or desecrating synagogues; whether it is increased violence form militia groups, or bombings of federal buildings, or demonstrations against immigrants simply because they can not speak as we do. Tolerance for too many has once again become a dirty word. You look at what happened out there in Laramie, Wyoming, the student matriculating, and because someone thought they should determine what his sexual preference ought to be, decided that they and not god had the right to take his life. Look what happened in June in Jasper, Texas. Three hundred miles from nowhere, James Byrd, Jr., on a street corner trying to get home, and gets grabbed and dragged by a truck for three miles until his arms and neck and limbs are dismembered because he just happened to be black. Now, if Dr. King were here, he would remind us that Jim Crow, Sr. is dead, but Jim Crow, Jr. is alive and well.So, the great moral challenge for all of us is to separate the truth from the trick. The challenge rests on our shoulders. Because in an era of smaller vision, rampant apathy and celebrated mediocrity, we so desperately need those men and women who will stand up and speak out for that which is right, and to fight back against that which is wrong. To really mean it when we say that racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism are wrong. To know as a matter of critical fact that black bigotry is just as cruel and evil as white bigotry. To understand intuitively that xenophobia, and homophobia, and immigrant bashing, and union bashing, and city bashing deplete us as a nation. They rob us of some lofty place in history and relegate us back to where we have been and regrettably, in many respects, are still now. So, in speaking out as Dr. King would speak out, we must be honest and true to our own sense of fairness. For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- that's deliberate; it's contrived, it's dishonest. The great enemy of the truth very often is the myth, because that is persistent, and persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the conclusions of other people. We subject all facts to a kind of prefabricated set of interpretations. As my grandmother said, we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. Yet, we have spent 5,000 years as a race of human beings trying to drag ourselves out of the primeval slime by searching for truths and moral absolutes. Yet, in it's purest form, truth is not a polite tap on the shoulder. It is, as Martin King reminded us, a howling reproach. What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai 2,000 years ago was not the 10 suggestions, but rather a blueprint for life. Maribel Gomez said it earlier, and I think it bears repeating as we talk and remember and reflect on the life of Dr. King, those words that said that we, we are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. And that in this unfolding conundrum of life in history, there really is such a thing as being too late, for procrastination is still the great thief of time. So, consequently, students the degree that you will one day receive from MIT will, in fact, represent many things. It will be a reward for your academic excellence. It will be reminded of a debt that you can never repay your parents, it will be both a source of relief and respect to your professors, but more than anything, it will be a license to learn. So, age has given me the arrogance and experience has given me the urgency to tell you what life looks like from my side of the river. My generation was the first to think that we might not have any time at all. Your generation is the first to be born knowing it. So, there will be those beyond these doors and beyond this activity today who will council you to be silent in this reactionary time. They will suggest students, that you look the other way and hope for the best. But I refuse to stand mute when opportunity is denied and justice is deferred, and I challenge you not to stand mute also. So, when the timid come running to you to say that they fear even to try anymore, we must reply as Martin King did from an old Birmingham jail that now is the time. When you were told to wait for tomorrow or the next tomorrow, for the next election or the next generation, we must reply that now is the time. I believe, and I humbly submit to you this morning, that we must use this occasion, this glittering reminder of the success of our experience, to recommit ourselves to sharing a basic dream.

It is the dream of Martin Luther King and Fannie Lou Hammer. The dream of Du Bois and Washington, and Tubman, and Douglas. The dream of all those nameless and faceless people who made their bodies bridges over generations that you might run across and one day get to the university. We must do that not just through our prose, our poetry, or our prayers, but also through our actions. Action, which removes a large part of our distress by changing the conditions around us that created. So, as I go to my seat, let me say to you, and again remind myself, that I have not given up on the American idea or the American possibility. And I, like Dr. King, would urge you not to give up also. I am convinced that this nation still stands before the world as perhaps the last expression of the possibility of mankind. Devising a social order where justice is the supreme ruler and law is but its instrument. Where freedom is the dominant creed and order but it's principle. Where equity is the common practice, and fraternity the true human condition. And to take that belief and to run with it beyond this university, beyond your years of youth, and beyond all else, and to make a real difference in this nation, and in your generation. I challenge you as Dr. King would, to do that right now. And when they saw him from afar, even before he had come near to them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another, behold, the dreamer cometh. Come now, therefore, and let us slay him. We will cast him into some old pit, and say that some evil beast has devoured him. And we shall see what becomes of his dream. Thank you.



Dr. Alexander Slocum '82, SM, PhD is the Alex and Brit d'Arbeloff Professor of Mechanical Engineering. He was recognized with a faculty MLK Leadership Award for his work with young people. Slocum developed a web-based forum called the Urban Design Corps to teach and display concepts in urban design and economics.

In nominating him, Professor Nam P. Suh, head of mechanical engineering, noted the role Professor Slocum plays in the Urban Design Corps and the Engineering Design Workshop. His classes "bubble with excitement," Professor Suh wrote. "Professor Slocum has infused excitement into minority and underprivileged students like no other faculty member at MIT."

Dr. Slocum earned the SB, SM and PhD at MIT, and subsequently left the Institute for a year to teach at the Cranfield Institute of Technology (1989-1990). He first joined the MIT faculty in 1985, later became an associate professor with tenure in 1995 and a full professor in 1998.

In accepting his award, Professor Slocum paid tribute to Marc Graham and Martin Culpepper, "two extraordinary students," and the hundreds of Second Summer seminar participants who joined them in developing the international Urban Design Corps.

"To build a road," he said, "the byte is mightier than the bulldozer." He also read a poem he composed called Dr. King's Dream with words including: "His dream was dedicated to our parents... our everlasting souls... our children... the Almighty."

Sources: MIT News, 27 Jan 1999 and 10 Feb 1999


richard-williamsonRichard Williamson, who earned the SB in electrical engineering and computer science in 1985 and a master's degree from the Harvard University School of Education, teaches in a "last chance" alternative program in Boston. He shares his home with members of God's Posse, a group of young men who have chosen to become productive members of their community. As an undergraduate, he was president of Black Students in Electrical Engineering and a member of Tau Beta Pi.

In nominating Mr. Williamson, Raymond E. Samuel, a research fellow and physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said, "The guy has laid down his life for something he has a passion for. Instead of asking what can America do for me -- big job, big car, big house -- Richard simply has done something that will benefit America in the long run." [MIT News Office, 27 Jan 1999]

Mr. Williamson noted Dr. King's observation that a life is not worth living until a person "finds something worth dying for." In his own case, Mr. Williamson said, "I found in these young men, on the streets of Boston, something worth dying for." [MIT News Office, 10 Feb 1999]

A month after receiving the MLK Leadership Award, he also received a Heroes Among Us award from the Boston Celtics at the FleetCenter.


adriana-holguin"When I think of Dr. King and the motivation he possessed, I ask myself, 'What else can I do to become a better leader?'" said Adriana L. Holguin '99, honored for her role in the National Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers. She said she accepts the responsibility and challenge to educate others. "At the same time," she said, "I'll never forget the important things in life -- humility and faith in God." [MIT News Office, 10 Feb 1999]

Assistant Dean Ann Davis Shaw, nominating Ms. Holguin, described her as "a credible and persuasive individual, always successfully motivating others on her team for action oriented results... well respected by her peers." Dean Shaw went on, "She is an ethical person with a positive character... and has great integrity." Ms. Holguin was a teacher's assistant with MITES, tutoring calculus to 30 high school students, and served two summer internships with E.I. duPont de Nemours and Co. [MIT News Office, 27 Jan 1999]

Inaugural IAP MLK Design Seminar

This installation illustrates the future through the eyes of Dr. King, as seen from his podium at the Lincoln Memorial, the site of his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. Photos of other civil and human rights leaders are featured around the reflection pool. Viewers can write their names on the figures of audience members, indicating their support for the dreams of a better world. Photo: Tobie Weiner

This installation illustrates the future through the eyes of Dr. King, as seen from his podium at the Lincoln Memorial, the site of his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. Photos of other civil and human rights leaders are featured around the reflection pool. Viewers can write their names on the figures of audience members, indicating their support for the dreams of a better world. Photo: Tobie Weiner

MIT News
"MLK celebration to feature exhibit in Lobby 7"
Robert J. Sales, News Office
January 13, 1999

The Lobby 7 exhibit is the brainchild of Eto Otitigbe, a senior in mechanical engineering and a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership award winner last year. The exhibit will be installed from February 1-4. Musical events are planned for Lobby 7 at noon and 5pm on February 4, the day of the breakfast. A panel discussion involving the designers will be held on February 5. It will be open to the MIT community.

"The MLK Design Seminar will encourage interaction and foster communication between members of the MIT community and members of diverse backgrounds," said Mr. Otitigbe, the project coordinator. "The installation will be designed to confront all who navigate through Lobby 7 each day. This unavoidable confrontation and the notion of physically being stopped will make people deal with the issues that the installation represents."

The seminar's participants will meet daily during IAP in the design studio to discuss concept, modeling, design, construction and installation. The exhibit will be shaped, in part, by discussions among the 15 students working on the project and social activists and artists from MIT and the surrounding community.

The students participated in a "mini-course" on the civil rights movement last week, directed by Tobie Weiner of political science, the Lobby 7 event coordinator for the Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Celebration Coordinating Committee.

"They watched some of the Eyes on the Prize videos and a selection from the Chicano series and completed readings on the civil rights movement as well as on other struggles for civil and human rights in the US and other parts of the world," said Ms. Weiner, an MLK Leadership Award winner in 1998 along with Mr. Otitigbe.

"The seminar and installation will assemble many people around the theme of remembrance of Dr. King's struggle," Mr. Otitigbe said in describing the project. "It will focus on the principles of social justice, economic justice and human rights -- three pillars that Dr. King used as a foundation for his struggle. It is important to bring in various members of the MIT community and the Cambridge/Boston community to aid in the development of this task. The invited guests will be people who through their work have sought to communicate ideas similar to those Dr. King lived by."

Graduate student Lawrence Sass of architecture is the design advisor for the installation. Associate Dean Arnold Henderson Jr. and Gertrude Morris of housing are also involved in the project.

The Tech
February 5, 1999

The MLK Committee decorated Lobby 7 to look like the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where Dr. King delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech.

The installation, entitled "Reflections: A tribute to all individuals who have supported the struggle for human rights," was sponsored by the MLK committee and designed by a group of students led by Eto S. Otitigbe '99.

The mirrored surfaces representing the reflecting pool in the Mall were designed to "involve the people in the installation so you're looking at yourself from a physical perspective as well as from a deeper one," said Kerone H. Peat '00, part of the group that set up the Lobby 7 display.

Students appreciated the music and the "Reflections" display.

"I feel very moved by the music and that the installation [of the D.C. scene] has come to life, I feel our purpose being vindicated," Peat said.

Sarah H. Wright, News Office
February 10, 1999

 Reflections, an installation in Lobby 7 to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was designed to "confront everyone who passed through to reflect on the struggles that have affected their lives," said Eto Otitigbe, a senior in mechanical engineering and design coordinator for the project.

Reflections filled the chilly, cavernous Infinite Corridor entryway from February 3-5. Its contemplative message of hope was amplified into one of resounding joy by two gospel groups on Thursday, Feb. 4.

The installation and two gospel concerts comprised the post-breakfast celebration following MIT's 25th annual event to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King.

Three dramatic design elements established a memorial space to Dr. King, especially evoking the site at which Dr. King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.

A pair of long, low, triangular barriers covered in heavy silver material extended through Lobby 7 from the outside doors to the Infinite Corridor entrance. The shimmering, knee-high "roofs" suggested the long reflecting pool in Washington, DC. They simultaneously narrowed the steady traffic flow and shifted each walker's gaze to enlarged photo images, hung at second-floor level over each Lobby 7 hallway entrance.

The photo images showed two scenes from Washington associated with the "I Have a Dream" speech: over the door out to Massachusetts Avenue hung an image of the Lincoln Memorial; over the Infinite Corridor was one of the Washington Monument.

The height and placement of the two Washington images, combined with the twin "reflecting pools," gave participants both a sense of being contained within a historic space and also a sense of what Dr. King saw as he looked out on the crowd.

The third design element, sharply rendered black cutouts of figures dancing, praying, laboring and bowing, marked each of the four corners of the lobby. The dramatic silhouettes, reminiscent of the sculptural dance forms created by choreographer Alvin Ailey, "climbed" each of the four columns in Lobby 7, forming pillars of people standing, literally, on the strength of those who had gone before them.

Lawrence Sass, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Architecture and Planning, and Tobie Weiner, undergraduate administrator in the Department of Political Science, served as advisors to the MLK Design Seminar. Other advisors included Dick Fenner, manager of the Pappalardo Laboratories; Arthur Ganson, artist-in-residence; and Edward McCluney, director of the Student Art Association.

"The MLK project symbolizes a very necessary acknowledgment of the ideals and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," said Mr. Otitigbe.

Mr. Otitigbe, whose "passion in life is for the arts, with a deep interest in science and technology," described his experience working on the MLK installation as "an opportunity for me to merge my passion and my education in order to address a social problem.

"The social problem in this case was the high level of apathy amongst the MIT community. I feel that initiative counters apathy and the MLK celebration is a time when the initiative of Dr. King and various members of the MIT community is celebrated," he said.

The hardest part of the design process, he said, was "integrating the ideas of a large group of people into one single design concept." Yet Reflections did achieve its goal.

"The most successful aspect of the installation was that it, indeed, confronted people as they passed through Lobby 7. Many people saw their reflection in the abstractions of the pools, and they related their reflection to the people on the columns. It was a chance for many to consider all the people who struggled and even died in order for them to be here today," Mr. Otitigbe said.

Other design team members included Oreoluwa Adeyemi, a junior in management; seniors Alan Feng and Aaron Winthers of mechanical engineering; juniors Daniel W. Rodriguez and Andrew A. Ryan and senior David McGill of electrical engineering and computer science; Erica Imani Shelton, a senior in chemical engineering; Jose Antonio Vera, a senior in economics and mechanical engineering; Elton Dean, a sophomore in nuclear engineering; juniors Puja Gupta and Kerone Peat and senior Ayana Mohammad of chemical engineering; and Ed Mitchell, a junior in mathematics.

Three students from Wellesley College -- Bande Mangaliso, Monique Calahan and Rachana Khandelwal -- also participated.

The team experience was meaningful both personally and intellectually, members said.

"Being in the design team has been quite enlightening. It did bring about an opportunity to focus on a social issue -- civil rights -- with an application of the arts and technology, an interesting concept," said Mr. Adeyemi.

"When Eto approached me with the idea of constructing an installation in Lobby 7, I was very enthusiastic. This would give me the opportunity to really focus my design skills," said Mr. Feng. "When he told me it was a Martin Luther King memorial for Black History Month, I kind of hesitated. I asked myself, 'Do I belong in this group that is trying to raise the awareness of black history?' The only answer I could think of was a question: 'Why not?' Civil rights have been an issue to this very day with blacks and with Asians.

"I don't have a loud voice, but I'm trying to represent a very silent minority. In having some of my ideas realized in this installation, I feel like my voice is being heard," he said.

Mr. Rodriguez took the MLK Design Seminar "in order to take a different route than the usual technological class. I wanted to open up my artistic side and felt that taking part in this class and honoring one of my most distinguished frat brothers, Martin Luther King Jr., was the way to do it," he said.

Mr. Rodriquez is vice president of the Rho Nu chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha and co-chair of the Black Students Union.

Two gospel groups performed in Lobby 7 as part of the post-breakfast celebration. Ain'a That Good News, a Gospel quartet, performed at noon, filling the busy lobby with an hour-long history of gospel music.

Ain'a That Good News performed well-known songs, including "Oh, Happy Day," "This Little Light of Mine" and "He's Got the Whole World," a favorite of Dr. King's often sung by Mahalia Jackson.The South Mass Choir, a full choir directed by Darryll Maston and accompanied by two keyboard players, a violinist and a drummer, performed from 5-6pm.

The success of Reflections as a setting for both contemplation and celebration was complete when the South Mass Choir sang "I Believe I Can Fly." Not only were audience members clapping, swaying and singing along, but way up on the third-floor balcony, overlooking the crowd, members of a cleaning crew were dancing and waving their hands as well.

"Lobby 7 has never been like this," commented Paul Parravano, co-director of the Office of Government and Community Relations.

This year's post-breakfast celebration was coordinated by Arnold Henderson, associate dean and section head, Counseling and Support Services; Trudy Morris, house manager, Office of Residential Life and Student Life programs; and Ms. Weiner.

Ms. Weiner also serves as the program administrator for the MIT Washington Summer Internship Program and as coordinator for the local MIT Political Science Internship Program . She has been advisor to a freshman seminar entitled, "The Civil Rights Movement and Beyond" for eight years.

Speaking of Reflections, she said, "We hope the IAP MLK Design Seminar will be an annual event."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 10, 1999.

MIT OPEN COURSEWARE: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. IAP Design Seminar Course (17.922)

Cyber Sisters and Virtual Visionaries

"Cyber Sisters and Virtual Visionaries," a day-long, interactive conference at MIT's Stratton Student Center on Saturday, Feb. 6, will bring together women of color who are actively involved in the design, production, distribution and use of information technology. The event is open to women of color age 15 and older.

The conference is sponsored by the MIT Community Fellows Program as part of MIT's 25th annual celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The goals of conference are:

  • To demonstrate to young women of color that they can develop careers, power, and connections to others in the information age;
  • To forge connections and mentoring relationships between women and girls of color who are engaged in evolving technologies;
  • To build an online resource for women of color interested in information technology;
  • To develop interest in a national conference on "Women of Color in the Information Age."

Participants will explore and discuss their work in information technology, exchange information and ideas, and create a jumping-off point for further discussion and networking. A website will be created to provide the means to involve more women and girls of color in information technology.

A tangible product will be completed by the end of the day--e.g., an installation piece, a website, or a systematic means for including more women and girls of color in information technology.

Kweisi Mfume, NAACP President & CEO and former Maryland representative, delivers the keynote address "Teaching & Learning: Key to Full Inclusion”. 2 February 1999