2017 MLK Commemoration to Highlight Art and Activism

African-American museum designer to deliver keynote address

Noted architect Phil Freelon will provide the keynote address at Duke's 2016 commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Pictured is a performance from the 2013 ceremony in Duke Chapel.

Phil Freelon, the principal architect of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), will deliver the keynote address for Duke University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration on Sunday, Jan. 15.

Phil Freelon

Duke community members and the public are invited to the annual program, which will link King’s civil rights legacy to activism in the arts and architecture. The event starts at 3 p.m. in Duke University Chapel, and free parking is available in the Bryan Center Parking Garage (see map at http://myatlascms.com/map/?id=21&mrkIid=39570).

Freelon, who is from Durham, will share the design philosophy and approach behind such landmark cultural institutions as the NMAAHC and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, which he also worked on. Through drawings and photographs, he will illustrate how architecture can set the tone for a powerful visitor experience.

Freelon, who is working on an expansion of Motown Museum in Detroit with legendary music producer Berry Gordy, will also touch on the contributions that African-American architect Julian Abele has made to the Duke campus and offer reflections on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Freelon, who was profiled by NBC News before the new Smithsonian museum’s opening in September, will be introduced by Richard Powell, the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History at Duke and a member of the Scholarly Advisory Committee of the NMAAHC.

Those unable to attend can watch a live stream of the event on Duke’s YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/duke. Viewers can post comments on Twitter using the hashtag #DukeMLK. An archive of the recording will also be posted online.

“We thought it was timely to honor Martin Luther King Jr. in the context of this important museum opening and the role that art has had in activism around issues of race and gender equity and LGBTQ issues,” said Benjamin Reese Jr., vice president of the Duke Office for Institutional Equity.

Constructed on the last available building site on the National Mall in Washington, the new museum is the nation's primary home for exhibiting and celebrating African-American achievements in art, history and culture.

Just six months before the museum opened, Freelon was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the degenerative neurological condition more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In December, he and his family announced the formation of the Freelon Foundation and launched the Design a World Without ALS campaign to raise $250,000 for the Duke ALS Clinic, where he is being treated.

Other highlights of the Duke Chapel program include performances by John Brown and the University Jazz Ambassadors and the Collage Dance Company of Durham. Also, greetings from Duke President Richard Brodhead, Durham Mayor Bill Bell, Duke University Health System President Kevin Sowers and Duke senior Tiana Horn.

Additional campus events include a jazz concert featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater and a special Rubenstein Library display of West Campus architectural drawings by Abele.

The concert honoring King, titled “Sounds of Justice & Inclusion,” will be presented at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at Reynolds Auditorium in the Bryan Center on Duke’s West Campus, featuring performances by John Brown’s “Little” Big Band, Durham Symphony Orchestra, three-time Grammy-winning jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, 100 Men in Black Chorus and actor and narrator Keith Snipes. Tickets are $20 for adults, free for seniors 65 and older and students, and are available through the Duke University Box Office, https://tickets.duke.edu or (919) 684-4444.

The concert is sponsored by the MLK Commemoration Planning Committee, Duke’s Office for Institutional Equity and Duke Chapel.

Other campus events, which are free and open to the public, include:

-- 2-4 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 12, Gothic Reading Room, Rubenstein Library, West Campus: “The Designs of Julian Abele,” a special Duke Libraries display of original West Campus architectural drawings by African-American architect Julian Abele;

--11 a.m., Sunday, Jan. 15, Duke Chapel: The Rev. Dr. Richard Lischer, the James T. and Alice Mead Cleland Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School, is the guest preacher during the chapel’s regular worship service. Lischer is the author of 21 books, including “The Preacher King: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Word That Moved America.” Watch a live webcast or archived video of the program here.

-- 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Monday, Jan. 16, Phail Wynn Jr. Student Services Center, Durham Technical Community College, 1637 E. Lawson St.: Duke community members continue to commemorate the holiday during a meal-packing event on Durham Tech’s campus. The event is co-sponsored by Duke Student Government, Duke’s Office of Durham & Regional Affairs and Duke’s Office for Institutional Equity.

Volunteers will work to package 100,000 meals for the United Way of the Greater Triangle. Volunteers must be at least 5 years old and an adult must accompany minors. Volunteers will create soup mixes, rice bags and bean bags to fill the shelves of pantries in the Triangle area. All food items will be distributed to partner agencies working to end hunger in Durham, Orange, Wake and Johnston counties. Duke students must sign up to attend at https://goo.gl/zNK5hH. Spaces are limited; bus transportation is available.

-- 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday, Jan. 16, East Campus Quad kick-off: During “The Big Event,” Duke community members complete service projects with partner Durham nonprofits, including Habitat for Humanity of Durham, Ronald McDonald House, Kidz Notes, TROSA, Emily K Center and St. Johns Church. T-shirt, food and transportation provided. Find more details at https://www.facebook.com/events/1831993333723671/.

-- 1-2 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 17, Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI), Lower Level Lecture Hall, 2400 Pratt St.: Ocoszio Jackson, Duke Law student and president of Duke's Black Graduate and Professional Student Association, will deliver the keynote lecture, titled “Marching Forward in Strength: Building Upon King’s Dream,” for DCRI’s annual MLK Celebration, with a musical performance by Duke senior Henry Washington Jr. Paid parking is available in the deck. The H2 Loop campus bus stops at PG3, which is located at North Pavilion. Watch a live webcast or archived video of the program here.

Learn more about this year’s commemoration, including an updated listing of events, at http://mlk.duke.edu/.