Dartmouth’s MLK Celebration: ‘The Fierce Urgency of Now’

News subtitle

The theme of the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration recalls the civil rights leader’s words.

Martin Luther King Jr.

See a full schedule of events for the 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at The Fierce Urgency of Now Celebration 2017.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is Jan. 15, which at Dartmouth is the beginning of a month-long celebration of Kings life through events that honor his legacy.

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late,” said the civil rights leader in 1967, in an address at New York City’s Riverside Church in which he voiced his opposition to America’s prosecution of the war in Vietnam.

Fifty years later, the specific issues may have changed, but Americans are still confronted with urgent needs, says Evelynn Ellis, vice president for Institutional Diversity and Equity.

Reprising King’s words, “The Fierce Urgency of Now” has become the theme of this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Dartmouth. “I cannot imagine a more appropriate theme,” says Ellis. “While there have been many times in the history of this country when Americans have needed to be strong in their commitment to equity for all people, these days definitely cry out for positive actions and our actions are needed now, not later, now.”

Each year, the Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Awards salute individuals who have answered the call to action. The awards honor members of the Dartmouth and Upper Valley community who have contributed significantly to social justice, peace, civil rights, education, public health, or environmental justice. They are sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, the Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity, the William Jewett Tucker Center, the Dartmouth Center for Service, and the Office for Diversity and Community Engagement at the Geisel School of Medicine.

The awardees will be recognized at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, in Filene Auditorium at Moore Hall as part of a panel discussion called “Conversations With Change Makers.”

This year’s winners:

Shawn O'Leary

Shawn O’Leary
Director of the Office for Diversity and Community Engagement at the Geisel School of Medicine

The Holly Fell Sateia Award



Rebecca Holcombe

Rebecca Holcomb
Secretary of Education in the State of Vermont

Award for Ongoing Commitment



Len Greenhalgh

Leonard Greenhalgh
Professor of management at the Tuck School of Business and faculty director for minority programs

Lifetime Achievement



Kevin Curnin

Kevin Curnin ’86
Partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, New York; founding director of Stroock’s Public Service Project

Lester B. Granger ’18 award for Lifetime Achievement



an aerial view of the Dartmouth Green
Divest Dartmouth
The 2017 Student Organization Award

Divest Dartmouth is an independent organization of students and community members who work on issues involving climate change and global warming. They are part of the national movement at colleges and universities calling for divestment from companies that extract fossil fuels. Group members are working to curb the effects of climate change, which they consider a threat to life on the planet.


Read more about the awards and the awardees.

On Jan. 16, this year’s keynote performance will be by the Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou and his musical collaborator, Jay-Marie Hill. “Rev. Sekou, a minister, songwriter, and activist, will be discussing why we are, as a nation, in the situation of ‘The Fierce Urgency of Now,’ ” says Ellis. “They will mix song with spoken words on why we must be active and why it is critical that we be active now. The music that the Rev. Sekou and Jay-Marie sing is about social justice.” The performance will take place at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 16, in the Moore Theater at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. President Phil Hanlon ’77 and Selome Ejigu ’17 will also speak to the audience.

Monday, Jan. 16, begins with the employee breakfast at 8:30 a.m. in the Hanover Inn’s grand ballroom. Seating is limited, and registration is required. Theodosia Cook, assistant director, special projects at alumni relations, will speak during the breakfast. Later that day, the 25th annual Martin Luther King Jr. candlelight vigil procession will take place at 5 p.m. in the Mural Room at Cutter-Shabazz Hall.

The Geisel School of Medicine will present a program under the banner “When Breath Becomes Action.” “The goal is to give voice to people within our society that are marginalized, disenfranchised, and unheard,” says Shawn O’Leary, director of the Office for Diversity and Community Engagement at Geisel. He cites a 1967 pronouncement from King: “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” All sessions will be held in the Oopik Auditorium at the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center.

The documentary film America Divided: Something in the Water, screening at 5:45 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13, opens the Geisel program. The film addresses the policies and practices that led to the crisis in Flint, Mich., and also damaged other poor, largely African American communities around the state.

The program on Saturday, Jan. 14, begins at 9 a.m. with a series of workshops: Survivors of Sexual Assault Panel and Discussion; Transgender Health Patient Panel and Discussion; and Interactive Clinical Skills Sessions.

Tim Wise, author of the book White Like Me, will give a keynote address at 1 p.m., “Collaboration or Resistance? Fostering Racial and Economic Justice in a Divided Nation.”

Among other events is the Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-Faith Celebration, sponsored by the Tucker Center, at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22, at Rollins Chapel. Joshua DuBois will preach. He is the author of the bestselling book The President’s Devotional: The Daily Readings that Inspired President Obama, and is one of the country’s leading voices on community partnerships, religion in the public square, and issues affecting African American men.

DuBois will also give a public policy address at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences at 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 23, followed by a book signing.


Joseph Blumberg