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‘The Beloved Community: Imagining Our Global Humanity’ is the theme for Syracuse University’s 2007 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
‘The Beloved Community: Imagining Our Global Humanity’ is the theme for Syracuse University’s 2007 Martin Luther King Jr. CelebrationJanuary 11, 2007Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
The 22nd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration will be held in Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome on the evening of Saturday, Jan. 20. The celebration, “The Beloved Community: Imagining Our Global Humanity” will feature a keynote address by award-winning writer Chris Abani, a native of Nigeria; choral music by a mass choir and SU’s Black Celestial Choral Ensemble; and the presentation of the 2007 Unsung Heroes Awards.
The day’s events begin at 11:30 a.m., with a Community Celebration at the Dr. King Elementary School, 416 E. Raynor Ave, presented by the Syracuse Inner City Rotary Club and Syracuse University. Bethaida Gonzalez, president of the Syracuse Common Council and interim dean of University College, will preside. Abani will offer a keynote address, and the event will also feature performances by the Signature Syracuse Jazz Ensemble, Dr. King Gospel Choir, Bell Grove Missionary Baptist Church Men’s Choir and Southwest Community Center Drill Team. A reception and book signing will follow.
The evening celebration will be preceded by a seminar at 3 p.m. in Maxwell Auditorium. There, Abani will discuss his book “GraceLand” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004), a moving portrait of postcolonial Nigeria as told by a young man from the Lagos slums. The seminar is free and open to the public; a reception and book signing will follow the seminar.
The evening program in the Carrier Dome will begin 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 sold out. For more information, call Hendricks Chapel at 443-5044.
As part of this year’s University-wide events, an exhibit honoring King will be on display in the Panasci Lounge in the Hildegarde and J. Myer Schine Student Center from Jan. 19-28 during regular building hours. Presented by Toyota, the exhibit includes a timeline of the life and work of King and a scale model of the national memorial currently under construction in Washington, D.C.
At one time, the Nigerian regime imprisoned Abani for his writings. From turmoil came art; his breakthrough novel, “GraceLand,” is a moving portrait of a teenage Elvis impersonator, set against the backdrop of one of the world’s largest cities, Lagos. The book won the 2005 PEN Hemingway prize for fiction, was chosen as a “Today” Show Book Club pick and was short-listed for The Los Angeles Times Book Award, The Commonwealth Writers Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Abani is also the recipient of a PEN Freedom-to-Write Award.
Abani’s poetic novella, “Becoming Abigail” (Akashic Books, 2006), was chosen as a New York Times Editor’s Pick for 2006. His latest novel, “The Virgin of Flames” (Penguin Books, forthcoming), is set in a seedy area of Los Angeles and follows a haunted artist searching for his identity.
Abani is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of California-Riverside.