Students to speak at MLK breakfast


Civil engineering graduate student Casandra Strudwick of Denver and freshman Mishone Donelson of Memphis, TN, will be the student speakers at MIT's 24th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Breakfast on Friday, Feb. 13 in Walker Memorial.

The theme for this year's celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King is "'The Same Old Bone': The Campaign Against Affirmative Action." The keynote speaker at the breakfast will be civil rights attorney Lezli Baskerville, general counsel of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO).

The breakfast, hosted by President Charles Vest and his wife Rebecca, is the centerpiece of MIT's 24th annual celebration of Dr. King. Other events include the ninth annual youth council for high school students from Boston and Cambridge and the fifth annual musical tribute to Dr. King by jazz vocalist Semenya McCord and Associates, both on Saturday, Feb. 14.

"Dr. King's philosophy and struggles have taught me that America is a dance, and I am one dancer in her troupe," said Ms. Strudwick, a National Science Foundation Fellow. "Yet the music is in the tune of racial prejudice, so I must strive all the more earnestly to complete my dance of life to the tune of faith, hope and love."

Ms. Strudwick, a summa cum laude architectural engineering major at North Carolina A&T State University, was the salutatorian at her graduation last spring. A member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and a charter member of the Phi Alpha Epsilon (the architectural engineering honor society), she is working toward an SM in high-performance structures and plans to pursue a PhD.

"When all is said and done, I hope that I will have inspired African-American youth not to allow racial prejudice to extinguish their self-respect, crush their ambition or paralyze their effort -- to defiantly and courageously hold steadfast to the belief that there is no end to the amount of things they can accomplish," she said.

Mr. Donelson, who won first prize in a national oratorical competition last summer, is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and the Black Students Union. He said Dr.������������������King's philosophy has helped shape his own.

"Dr. King was a true hero who exemplified freedom, non-violence, peace and equality," said Mr. Donelson, a graduate of East High School in Memphis. "He worked to break down barriers and unite people of various backgrounds. Like Dr. King, I too dream of a nation and a world free of bigotry."

In addition to delivering the opening remarks, President Vest will introduce the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award winners -- Eto Otitigbe, a junior in mechanical engineering who is an award-winning artist; Professor Lynda Jordan, an associate professor at North Carolina A&T who received the PhD from MIT in 1985 and is a 1997-98 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor in chemistry; and Tobie Weiner, an administrative assistant in political science who directs a course called Community Service -- Experience and Reflection and has placed numerous MIT students with community organizations.

Provost Joel Moses will recognize the 1997-98 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professors -- Ernesto Cortes in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Winston Soboyejo in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Louis Thomas in the Sloan School of Management, and Professor Jordan.

Other Martin Luther King Jr. visiting professors expected to attend the breakfast are Steven Lee, who was in the Department of Mathematics for three semesters from 1996-98, and William Quivers, chair of the Department of Physics at Wellesley College, who was at MIT from 1996-97.

The MIT Black Gospel Choir will perform at the breakfast, and the documentary film "Remembrance of Martin" will be shown starting at 7am as the guests arrive.

The theme of the day-long youth conference will be "Youth: The Future, Technology and Entrepreneurship." Melvin King, senior lecturer emeritus in urban studies and planning and a founder of the MIT Community Fellows program, will be the guest speaker. Ms. McCord's concert is scheduled for 8pm in Kresge Auditorium. Admission is free and the public is invited.

The phrase "the same old bone" was used by Dr. King to describe the tactics of the Kennedy administration regarding racial matters in his book Why We Can't Wait (Harper and Row, 1963). Dr. King wrote, "The Negro felt that the same old bone had been tossed to him in the past -- only now it was being passed to him on a platter, with courtesy."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 4, 1998.


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