URI to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Week, Feb. 1-5, with talks, performances, luncheon

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KINGSTON, R.I. – Jan. 12, 2016 – Ruby Nell Sales, an African-American social activist who was a key figure in the nation’s civil rights struggle, will be the keynote speaker at the University of Rhode Island during a weeklong celebration to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.


The annual event on the Kingston campus will also include talks, seminars and performances—all heralding the accomplishments of King, who was assassinated April 4, 1968 at the age of 39 while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tenn.


The week will culminate with a Unity Luncheon Feb. 3 in the Memorial Union ballroom during which Sales will give a talk about her experiences as a social justice advocate.


As a student at Tuskegee University, Sales joined in the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965 and was also arrested for participating in voter registration campaigns in Alabama. After her release from jail, she and other activists tried to buy soda at a local store. A deputy, Thomas Coleman, opened fire, killing an Episcopal seminarian, Jonathan Daniels, who pushed Sales aside to save her life. Despite the shock, Sales testified at Coleman’s trial. An all-white jury of 12 men acquitted him, but the outcome led to a legal challenge and, ultimately, changes in the jury selection process.


Over the years, Sales has taught classes at Bucknell University and Spelman College, among other colleges. She has a master’s degree in divinity from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge. She is also founder of SpiritHouse, a nonprofit group that brings diverse communities together through spirituality. Sales is one of 30 African-Americans to be spotlighted in the new Smithsonian Museum of African-American History and Culture.


MLK Week events include a day of service and outreach to middle school students; workshops on meditation, leadership and nonviolence; a performance of civil rights songs by children; a lecture about spirituality, race and police work; a talk about the Islamic community of Rhode Island; and documentaries about King.


Melvin Wade, director of the Multicultural Student Services Center and coordinator of MLK Week, is urging URI faculty to incorporate events into their courses and offer academic incentives to students for attending. Participants are encouraged to register for events by visiting MLK Week Registration.


Here’s a list of some events:


* Monday, Feb. 1, Community Sing, co-sponsored by the Child Development Center, from 10-10:30 a.m., in the Memorial Union. Preschoolers will perform songs that increase awareness of diversity.


* Monday, Feb. 1, “Oh, Freedom Over Me,” co-sponsored by the Africana Studies Program, 3-4 p.m., Multicultural Student Services Center. The musical production will feature Cheryl Albright, a singer from West Warwick.


* Tuesday, Feb. 2, Compassion Meditation Workshop, co-sponsored by the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, noon to 1 p.m., Multicultural Student Services Center. Thupten Tendar, a Buddhist monk and URI instructor, will explore how to be more compassionate. Research has shown that compassion brings happiness, reduces fear, enhances self-image, increases empathy and boosts immunity.


* Tuesday, Feb. 2, screening of “Martin Luther King and the March on Washington,” co-sponsored by the Department of Theatre, 5-6:30 p.m., Multicultural Student Services Center.


* Tuesday, Feb. 2, The Spirituality of Falun Gong, co-sponsored by the Falun Dafa Association of Rhode Island, 7-8 p.m., Multicultural Student Services Center. The talk is about “Qigong,” which is practiced throughout China for recreation, exercise, relaxation, preventive medicine, self-healing, meditation and training in the martial arts.


* Wednesday, Feb. 3, Unity Luncheon with keynote speech by Sales, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., in Memorial Union. The event is a sharing of food, song and reflection to celebrate King’s ideas. The URI Chaplains Association will present the URI Peacemaker Award.


* Wednesday, Feb. 3, 4-5:30 p.m., Multicultural Student Services Center, a talk by Sales about the role of spirituality in lessening racism.


* Wednesday, Feb. 3, Interfaith Celebration, co-sponsored by the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Sankofa Christian Ministry and the URI Chaplains Association, 8 p.m., Multicultural Student Services Center.


* Thursday, Feb. 4, a screening of “King: Man Of Peace In A Time of War,” 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Multicultural Student Services Center. The documentary features interviews with Jesse Jackson and Colin Powell that provide new insight into the life and personality of King.


* Thursday, Feb. 4, discussion about “The Transformation of the Nation of Islam: From Malcolm X to Imam Warith,” co-sponsored by the Muslim Community Center of Kingston, the URI Muslim Student Association, the Muslim American Dawah Center of Rhode Island and Cross-Currents, from 5-6 p.m., at the Multicultural Student Services Center. The talk will feature Farid Ansari, Imam of the Muslim American Dawah Center of Rhode Island and shift coordinator at the Rhode Island Training School. He is on the Governor’s Commission for Police and Community Relations and a member of the board of directors for Rhode Island Community and Justice.


* Friday, Feb. 5, Martin Luther King Day of Service, co-sponsored by the School of Education, the URI Fraternities and Sororities, the Kappa Delta Pi Education Honor Society and the Multicultural Unity and Student Involvement Committee, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Multicultural Student Services Center. URI students will help middle-school students from Paul Cuffee School, the Met School, Highlander Charter School and Calcutt Middle School.


Sponsors of MLK Week are: the Multicultural Center; the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies; the Student Entertainment Committee; URI Chaplains Association; URI Fraternities and Sororities; Africana Studies Program; School of Education; Office of Community, Equity and Diversity; Cross-Currents; Feinstein Center for Service Learning; Center for Student Leadership Development; Office of the President; Office of the Provost; Intervarsity Christian Fellowship; Multicultural Unity and Student Involvement Council; Sankofa Christian Ministry; Departments of History; Theatre and Psychology; Kappa Delta Pi Education Honor Society; Falun Dafa Association of Rhode Island; Paul Cuffee School; The Met School; Highlander Charter School; and Calcutt Middle School.


Pictured above: Ruby Nell Sales, an African-American social activist who was a key figure in the nation’s civil rights struggle, will be the keynote speaker at the University of Rhode Island during a weeklong celebration to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.