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Rita Dove, Michael Eric Dyson Headline U.Va.’s 2014 MLK Commemoration

Note: At the “Honoring Rita Dove: An American Poet” program Jan. 31, violinist Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band will make remarks after the screening of the film, “Rita Dove: An American Poet.” Film director Eduardo Montes-Bradley will attend the premiere, but is not scheduled to give a talk.

The University of Virginia will again commemorate the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with an array of events from Jan. 17 through Jan. 31. Highlights include a Jan. 23 keynote address from cultural critic, writer and NPR host Michael Eric Dyson and the Jan. 31 world premiere of a documentary on the life and contributions of U.Va. English professor and poet Rita Dove.

Since 2011, the University’s Office for Diversity and Equity has organized a varied series of events to explore King’s legacy, with other units, schools, student groups and community partners co-sponsoring and adding their programs to the roster. All events are free and open to the public; a few of them, such as the events with Dyson and Dove, require registration or tickets.

This year’s schedule kicks off Jan. 19 with the 29th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration, set to begin at 5 p.m. at the Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church. U.Va. President Emeritus John T. Casteen III will be this year’s guest speaker. The celebration will include a performance by the community choir, which is open to all interested singers who are able to attend most of the rehearsal dates.

Following this year’s theme, “Looking Back, Moving Forward,” the film, “King: A Filmed Record ... From Montgomery to Memphis,” will be screened Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. in Newcomb Hall Theater, and Dyson’s keynote speech, on Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. in Culbreth Theatre, will address “Dr. King in the 21st Century.”

Dyson, an American Book Award recipient and two-time NAACP Image Award winner, is a sociology professor at Georgetown University and has been called one of the nation’s most influential public intellectuals. The author of eight books – his first, “Reflecting Black: African American Cultural Criticism,” published in 1993 – helped establish the field of black American cultural studies.

He has written two books about King: “I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King Jr.” and The New York Times best-selling “April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Death and How It Changed America.”

In addition, he hosts an hour-long news and talk program on NPR, “The Michael Eric Dyson Show,” where he analyzes the day’s biggest stories, from pop culture to race relations.

Tickets for Dyson’s talk are free but required, and are available online. Beginning Jan. 16, tickets will also be available in-person at the U.Va. Arts Box Office and by phone at (434) 924-3376. Remaining tickets will be available at the door.

“Honoring Rita Dove: An American Poet” will be held Jan. 31 at the Paramount Theater and will begin at 6:45 p.m., after a 6 p.m. reception. Dove, a Commonwealth Professor at U.Va. and former U.S. poet laureate, will be recognized for her contributions as a poet and author. Violinist Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band will give opening remarks, as will film director Eduardo Montes-Bradley, before the screening of his film, “Rita Dove: An American Poet.”

The Dove program requires registration (but not tickets).

The documentary paints the portrait of a woman who emerged from the profound social transformations of the 1960s as a singular voice and went on to become a distinguished bard, decorated with the highest artistic honors of the nation. It features a series of in-depth interviews with Dove – conducted and recorded by Montes-Bradley between September 2012 and October 2013 – as well as still images and clips from the Dove family’s home-movie collection.

Other events include:

• A talk by Marcia Baxter-Magolda, an education professor at Miami University of Ohio, on creating “potent learning partnerships” (Jan. 17, 9:30 a.m., Newcomb Hall Gallery);

• A U.Va. Health System program Jan. 20 during which undergraduates and high school students shadow physicians and learn about health care careers, with an emphasis on the impact of diversity and inclusiveness on health care practice and research;

• A panel discussion on “Life@UVa: On-Grounds Experiences of People of Color” (Jan. 22, 2 p.m., Harrison-Small Special Collections Library Auditorium);

• A lecture by retired justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia John Charles Thomas, a 1975 U.Va. School of Law alumnus, on the significance of the Civil Rights Act and its 50th anniversary in 2014 (Jan. 22, 5 p.m., Caplin Auditorium, School of Law);

• A presentation, “Growing Leaders of Tomorrow: Mindsets, Diversity, and the Dream,” by diversity educator and “positive rapper” Omékongo Dibinga, a visiting lecturer who will teach the Curry School of Education’s popular multicultural education course this semester (Jan. 29, 5:30 p.m., Bavaro Hall, room 116).

 For the full schedule, click here.

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