Honorary Degree Recipient to Lead Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

Posted 12/07/07
Singer, composer, historian and honorary degree recipient Bernice Johnson Reagon will be the keynote speaker at an upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration at Wesleyan.

Reagon, who founded the internationally-renowned a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock, will participate in a class, facilitate a lunch discussion and speak at the community wide MLK celebration Jan. 29. The MLK discussion will begin at 4:15 p.m. Jan. 29 in Memorial Chapel.

Reagon received an honorary degree recipient from Wesleyan University in 2001.

Wesleyan annually honors and celebrates the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., who also received a honorary degree from Wesleyan in 1964. King Jr. also preached at McConaughy Hall in 1966.

Reagon is professor emeritus of history at American University. The recipient of the 2003 Heinz Award for the Arts and Humanities for her work as a scholar and artist in African American cultural history and music, Reagon serves as curator emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC.

Reagon recently retired after 30 years from performing with Sweet Honey In The Rock, the internationally renowned a cappella ensemble she founded in 1973. She produced most of the group’s recording including the Grammy nominated “Still The Same Me.” Her work as a scholar and composer is reflected in publications and productions on African American culture and history, including: a collection of essays titled If You Don’t Go, Don’t Hinder Me: The African American Sacred Song Tradition; We’ll Under-stand It Better By and By: Pioneering African-American Gospel Composers; We Who Believe in Freedom: Sweet Honey In The Rock: Still On the Journey; and Voices of the Civil Rights Movement, Black American Freedom Songs, a 2-CD anthology with booklet.

In addition to the day of events, there will be a display of 16 significant Civil Rights Movement events and people in the Zelnick Pavilion Jan. 22-29.

Topics include the Underground Railroad in Middletown, Black Women and the Suffrage Movement, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Rosa Parks and The Montgomery Bus Boycott, School Desegregation In Elementary and Secondary Education, Community Organizing Efforts in 1960-1964, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Voting Rights: Selma to Montgomery Marches, Malcolm X: Life and Death, The Legacy & Memorial to Dr.King and A Pledge for the Future, Slavery in North America and Sojourner: Witness of Truth.

“The exhibit features a few snapshots of the immense time and effort, loss and pain, triumph and joy, heroines and heroes whom have sought to make our world a more just and equitable place for all,” explains MLK Celebration committee member Cathy Crimmins Lechowicz, director of community service and volunteerism. “We hope that through experiencing this display, the viewers will learn something new, think about something in a different way and, most importantly, question something about what they thought they knew and think about how we can each continue to create civil rights landmarks in our own time.”

The MLK Celebration Planning Committee is requesting the Wesleyan community to submit any Civil Rights movement event or display ideas prior to Dec. 15. To propose a topic, e-mail a topic and a brief summary to Cathy Lechowicz at clechowicz@wesleyan.edu. The MLK Planning Committee reviews all topics submitted. Those selected will be asked to submit the content for the story board – up to 600 words – by Jan. 20.

For more information about the program, go to http://www.wesleyan.edu/mlk.