Nigerian writer Chris Abani will keynote Syracuse University’s 2007 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
Nigerian writer Chris Abani will keynote Syracuse University’s 2007 Martin Luther King Jr. CelebrationJanuary 02, 2007Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
Chris Abani, an award-winning writer who as a teenager in Nigeria was imprisoned for his fiction, will give the keynote address at Syracuse University’s 22nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, “The Beloved Community: Imagining Our Global Humanity,” in the Carrier Dome on Saturday, Jan. 20.
The annual celebration is among the largest university-sponsored events in the United States to commemorate King. Last year, more than 2,000 people attended SU’s event.
The evening program, which will include the presentation of the 2007 Unsung Hero Awards and entertainment, begins at 6:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Tickets for the dinner, which precedes the program at 5:30 p.m., are $20 for the general public and $13 for students without meal plans. Students with meal plans will be charged for one dinner. For ticket information, call Hendricks Chapel at (315) 443-5044.
Abani will also appear earlier in the day at a community celebration sponsored by the Syracuse Inner City Rotary. He will also present an afternoon seminar in SU’s Maxwell Auditorium. Both the community event and seminar are free and open to the public.
“We know Dr. King primarily for his struggle for civil rights in America, but his vision had a strong international dimension, particularly near the end of his life, and Chris Abani will help us gain an explicitly global perspective on that aspect of Dr. King’s life and work,” says Eric Holzwarth, deputy director of the Renee Crown University Honors Program and chair of the MLK Celebration Committee. “Dr. King inspired millions throughout the world, and Abani will share his views about his key contributions to the struggle for freedom in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, and about what it means for each of us to undertake what Abani calls `our own march to justice and our own humanity.'”
Abani was first imprisoned by the Nigerian regime at 18, when his debut novel was labeled a threat to national security. After his release from prison, Abani continued to challenge injustice as part of a guerrilla theater group that performed plays in front of government buildings. His activism led to more arrests and eventually to a death sentence. When he was finally released, through an international lobbying effort, he chose to live in exile, first in the United Kingdom and now in California.
Abani’s novel “Graceland” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004) is a moving portrait of postcolonial Nigeria as told by a young man from the Lagos slums. The book won a 2005 PEN Hemingway Prize for fiction and was chosen as a “Today Show” Book Club pick. His other novels include “Masters of the Board” (Delta, 1985) and his forthcoming work, “The Virgin of Flames,” to be published by Penguin in 2007.
His novella “Becoming Abigail” (Akashic Books, 2006) tells the story of a fiercely independent Nigerian girl in London whom her family forces into prostitution. His forthcoming novella, “Song for Night,” is due to be published by Akashic in 2007.
Abani’s poetry collections include “Hands Washing Water” (Copper Canyon Press, 2006), “Dog Woman” (Red Hen, 2004), “Daphne’s Lot” (Red Hen, 2003) and “Kalakuta Republic” (Saqi, 2001). Abani is currently an associate professor of creative writing at the University of California-Riverside.