Who is Michele Norris?

IMG_0347.JPGMichele Norris is the 2013 MLK Keynote speaker. Her visit to Lehigh University will be Thursday January 24th, as part of a week of activities. The official announcement came last month, as most of the students and faculty were mired in finals. Here’s a link to the full Lehigh U news story, written by the ever supportive Linda Harbrecht in Community Relations.

Some of our readers may also be long time listeners to National Public Radio. Ms. Norris has recently returned to the staff of NPR as a special correspondent. Prior to taking a brief leave of absence, Ms. Norris was one of the hosts of NPR’s afternoon news program, All Things Considered. Many may have heard her voice on our local public radio station, WDIY (88.1fm)

If you haven’t linked to the Lehigh News story, or checked out the link to Michele Norris,new-cover-thumb let me offer some insight into her visit. I read her memoir, The Grace of Silence a couple of summers ago. This book raised new awarenesses for me about racial issues between generations. I was able to consider race in America on a whole new level; for which I felt more urgency to continue the conversations on campus and in my community. Ms. Norris’ website has generous material for people to prepare for her visit; reading guides, excerpts, and interactive tools if educators which to explore the content of her book more deeply. Copies of the book are also available at the Campus Book Store, if one wishes to have it signed by the author next week.

In addition to her book, Ms. Norris also has a digital archive called The Race Card Project. What started out as a piece of her book took to ignite conversations on race, Ms. Norris “asked people to think about their experiencesquestionshopesdreamslaments orobservations about race and identity. Then, [she] asked that they take those thoughts and distill them to just one sentence that had only six words.” (from “TheRaceCardProject.com/about…” section). If you spend a little time with the Race Card Wall, you might find some provocative statements. I encourage everyone who intends to listen to Michele Norris’ speech next week to spend a few moments with this material. Prepare your heart for some awakening.

The MLK committee chose this year’s MLK theme “Old challenges. New realities” quite deliberately. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It’s also the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The week of activities organized by the MLK committee are intended to offer multiple opportunities for everyone on campus; students, faculty, administrators, staff and our community neighbors to reflect, challenge each other, and try to evolve on some pretty sensitive issues. This issues do not resolve themselves. Each one is complex and personal, and also tangled with others’ personal complexities. It is vital to the evolution of our campus that people come together to share knowledge, research, and experiences for us to grow. It is often said that our future is uncertain if we do not learn from our past. On issues of race, we are all students, we are all teachers, and we all need to grow.

MLK week beings next Monday at 10am in Zoellner’s Baker Hall with the annual Opening Ceremonies. If your schedule permits, you may enter late or leave early at your will. As has become tradition, we will hear short statements from representatives of the administration, faculty, students and staff mixed between excerpts of the full speech of Dr. Martin Luther King. Other activities revolve around lunches and breakfasts; so if free food or multi-tasking helps to weave these activities into your schedule, please consider all of them listed.

There remains some spaces on the DC Experiential Bus Trip next week Friday. It is a truly transformative experience for all who participate. If interested, please contact the Office of Multicultural Affairs for reservations at 8-5973. Or make your reservation online immediately. ($10)

The Twitter hashtag for the week of activities was not mentioned: #LehighMLK2013 – tweet early and often! Let’s keep the conversation going!

One final thought: The MLK week of activities doesn’t come together without WDIY-LOGO-E-W-07many hours of service from the committee members, the financial support from the administration and the many academic departments and programs and from community partnerships. This year, we are very pleased to gain the support from our local public radio station, WDIY for spreading the word about Michele Norris’ visit to Bethlehem. We hope to see many people at the events.