Photo gallery MLK speaker: Hear the things you don’t agree with
“What are you willing to fight for?”
Writer and actress Anna Deavere Smith encouraged audience members to continue the fight against racism and injustice in her keynote speech at the MLK Symposium Wednesday evening at Memorial Union’s Shannon Hall.
“It’s up to us to magnify the flame and to shine the light, even as we proceed with our smallest daily tasks,” Smith said. “Hear different. [It is] really, really important to hear the things you don’t agree with. Hear and listen.”
The MLK Symposium celebrates the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and provides an opportunity for campus to remember, learn, and act on lessons from King’s legacy of activism, equity, social justice, and community building. The annual event is sponsored by the Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement and Student Affairs in partnership with the Wisconsin Union Theater.
In her introduction of Smith, Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin evoked King’s two speeches on the UW–Madison campus, in March 1962 and November 1965, and wondered what he would think if he returned today.
“I suspect he might, as he did in his lifetime, speak about the ‘fierce urgency of now’ — urging us to confront challenges while also helping us see boundless possibilities for a brighter future,” Mnookin said.
LaVar J. Charleston, deputy vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, encouraged attendees to take inspiration from the event.
“It is my hope that you will take away from this event a renewed sense of accountability, responsibility, action and commitment to carry out the Wisconsin Idea on our campus and even further — the concept that we make change here and carry it beyond our walls.”
Lori Reesor, vice chancellor for student affairs, said students are most successful when they feel a sense of belonging.
“We have made progress, and we will always have more work to do,” Reesor said. “Staying in conversation and in community allows us to be honest about who we are today — as a university and as human beings — so that we can chart a path forward that’s grounded in empathy and shared purpose.”
Also during the event, UW–Madison First Wave scholar Kaleb Autman offered a spoken word performance, and student Kamyia Denson moderated a Q&A with Smith following her remarks.
Deavere Smith talks with student moderator Kamyia Denson during the symposium. Denson moderated the Q&A session.
Deavere Smith chats with UW–Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin, at right, backstage before the event.
LaVar J. Charleston, deputy vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, told the audience that "while it can be uncomfortable to illuminate ugly truths, these truths help us avoid repeating the mistakes of the past."
Kaleb Autman, a UW–Madison undergraduate student with the First Wave program, performs a spoken-word piece.
At left, writer and actress Anna Deavere Smith talks with Jessica Stovall (center, Anna Julia Cooper Fellow in the Department of African American Studies), Erica Halverson, professor of education, and Dana Pellebon, Dane County board supervisor and executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, during a private reception in Deavere Smith’s honor in Tripp Hall in the Memorial Union.
Second from left, writer and actress Anna Deavere Smith talks with political science professor Kathy Cramer; education professor Erica Halverson; Jessica Stovall, Anna Julia Cooper Fellow in the Department of African American Studies; and Dana Pellebon, Dane County board supervisor and executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, during a reception for Deavere Smith.
At left, Chris Walker, director of the Division of the Arts, talks with Deavere Smith during a reception.
At center, UW–Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin poses for a photo with writer and actress Anna Deavere Smith (second from right) and UW–Madison undergraduate students Kamyia Denson (far left), Cheng Vang (second from left), and Micah Scarlett (far right) during a reception in Deavere Smith’s honor.