The University of Michigan is hosting its 2024 symposium honoring civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with “Transforming the Jangling Discords of Our Nation into a Beautiful Symphony” as this year’s theme.

As one of the nation’s largest celebrations of King’s life and legacy sponsored by higher education, the annual symposium’s theme calls on the community to grapple with the nature of ongoing discord around the globe and to examine the role of individuals and members of society to create a world where harmony is possible.

Michelle Alexander, legal scholar, social justice advocate, columnist at The New York Times and visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, delivers the memorial keynote lecture. Author of the acclaimed bestseller “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” Alexander draws back the curtain on systemic racism in the prison system and offers insights on how to end the racial caste in America.

During her keynote, she will explore the myths surrounding the criminal justice system from a racial and ethical standpoint and offer solutions for combating this epidemic. This year’s theme also focuses on an essential element of the ministry and social justice advocacy of King, and his belief in the transformative power of faith, hope and love to mend the rifts in society.

The keynote is co-sponsored by the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives under the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

From Michelle Alexander’s Bio:

Michelle AlexanderMichelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, legal scholar and author of The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness — the bestselling book that helped to transform the national debate on racial and criminal justice in the United States.
Since The New Jim Crow was first published in 2010, it has spent nearly 250 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and has been cited in judicial decisions and adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads, and has inspired a generation of racial justice activists motivated by Alexander’s unforgettable argument that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”
The book has won numerous awards, including the 2011 NAACP Image Award for best nonfiction.  Alexander has been featured in national radio and television media outlets, including MSNBC, NPR, CNN, Bill Moyers Journal, The Colbert Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, Tavis Smiley, Democracy Now!, and C-SPAN.
Over the years, Alexander has taught at a number of universities, including Stanford Law School, where she was an associate professor of law and directed the Civil Rights Clinic.  In 2005, Alexander won a Soros Justice Fellowship that supported the writing of The New Jim Crow and accepted a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. Currently she is a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.
Prior to joining academia, Alexander engaged in civil rights litigation in both the private and nonprofit sector, ultimately serving as the director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California, where she coordinated the Project’s media advocacy, grassroots organizing, and coalition building and launched a major campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement known as the “DWB Campaign” or “Driving While Black or Brown Campaign.”
Alexander is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Vanderbilt University. She has clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court and for Chief Judge Abner Mikva on the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

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