Yusef Salaam Talk, Day of Service Highlight MLK Events on Campus

  • January 16th, 2020

Holidays usually bring sales, a day off work and television programming around said event. However at The University of Alabama, the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday is considered “A Day On — Not a Day Off!”

The UA Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Committee, a universitywide committee of faculty, staff and students, was established fall 2018 with the goal of creating more learning opportunities about the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The committee uses the theme “The Fierce Urgency of Now: A Day On – Not a Day Off!” because it focuses on the importance of seeing the King holiday as a time of service.

Learning and engagement opportunities sponsored by various colleges and offices at the University will be held throughout the month. Two big events are the MLK Day of Service and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lecture. Those who participate in the month’s activities are encouraged to use #FierceUrgency #UA any time they post to social media.

Visiting speaker
Yusef Salaam, member of the Exonerated Five (formerly known as the Central Park Five)

MLK Day of Service – Jan. 20

Volunteer check-in begins at 8 a.m. at the Center for Service and Leadership in the Ferguson Student Center. Activities begin at 8:30 a.m. and continue through noon. Students will be provided transportation to a service site of their choice. Register through the Center for Service and Leadership. Contact the Center at volunteer.ua.edu or 205-348-2865.

Also that day, from 9-11 a.m. at the Ferguson Center, the Black Faculty and Staff Association will host Stuff a Bag of Love. Donations of shelf milk, cereal, fruit cups, applesauce, juice boxes and more can be delivered to 102D Ancillary Services Building through Jan. 16. Bags will be delivered to Alberta Head Start.

Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture – Jan. 27  

Yusef Salaam, a member of the Exonerated Five, formerly known as the Central Park Five, will give the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lecture Monday, Jan. 27, at 7:30 p.m. in the Ferguson Center Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public. After the lecture there will be a signing of his book, “Words of a Man: my right to be,” which can be purchased at the Supply Store.

On April 19, 1989, a young woman was raped and left for dead in New York City’s Central Park. Five boys — four black and one Latino — were tried and convicted of the crime in a frenzied case that rocked the city. They became known collectively as the Central Park Five.

Their convictions were vacated in 2002 after spending between seven and 13 years of their lives behind bars. The unidentified DNA in the Central Park Jogger Case, unlinked to any of the five, had finally met its owner, a convicted murderer and serial rapist who confessed. The convictions of the boys, now men, were overturned and they were exonerated. One of those boys, Yusef Salaam, was just 15 years old when his life was upended and changed forever.

Since his release, Salaam has been committed to advocating and educating people on the issues of false confessions, police brutality and misconduct, press ethics and bias, race and law, and the disparities in America’s criminal justice system. In 2013, documentarians Ken and Sarah Burns released the documentary “The Central Park Five,” which told the event from the perspective of Salaam and his cohorts.

In 2014, The Central Park Five received a multimillion dollar settlement from the city of New York. Salaam was awarded an honorary doctorate that same year and received the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 from then-President Barack Obama.

He was appointed to the board of the Innocence Project in 2018, and released a Netflix feature limited series called “When They See Us” based on the true story of the Central Park Five with Ava DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey and Robert De Niro in May 2019.

In addition to the lecture, Salaam will participate in the lunch discussion Jan. 27 at noon in the Moot courtroom of the Law School. The Hon. Judge John England will moderate the discussion.

Other events

“The American Dream” – Thursday, Jan. 16

Excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “The American Dream” speech will be read from noon to 1 p.m. in Bedsole courtroom, 140 Law School. The event is sponsored by the School of Law. Lunch will be provided. RSVP required.

“Martin Luther King Jr. Streets as Unfinished Civil Rights Work” – Jan. 21

Dr. Derek Alderman, professor of geography, University of Tennessee, will speak 3:30-4:45 p.m. in 118 Graves Hall.

“The Basis of Power” – Jan. 21

Boots Riley, activist/musician/director of “Sorry to Bother You,” will speak 3:30-5 p.m. in 30 ten Hoor Hall.

Ongoing Projects

A couple of projects will continue throughout the month. The School of Social Work is hosting a book drive for Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. Children’s books can be dropped off at the School of Social Work or purchased from MLK Elementary School’s Amazon wish list. Also, UA Special Collections has an exhibit titled “Miss Lucy and the Mob: The First Desegregation of The University of Alabama” at the school.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.