A world-class duo of entertainer/activists will help Johns Hopkins celebrate the birthday of Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr. when its annual remembrance event takes place from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 10.
Begun in 1982, the Johns Hopkins Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration endeavors to honor King's legacy of nonviolent activism and community service. In keeping with tradition, it again will take place in Turner Auditorium on the East Baltimore campus and be broadcast to several other university and health system locations.
Keynote speaker for the event is Danny Glover, a star of stage and screen and an international human rights activist. Glover will share the stage with Harry Belafonte, entertainer and humanitarian, who will receive the Ideals Award in recognition of his outstanding service and commitment to King's principles.
Levi Watkins, founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Celebration and chair of its committee, says this year's two heavyweight guests will continue the legacy of what has become one of the "premier programs of its kind in America." Past speakers have included Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu, Coretta Scott King, Stevie Wonder, Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks.
A native of San Francisco, Danny Glover has appeared in numerous stage productions, including The Island, Macbeth and Master Harold and the Boys. His film credits include Places in the Heart, Witness, The Color Purple, the Lethal Weapon series and The Royal Tenenbaums. In 1988, Glover received an NAACP Image Award as well as an ACE Award for his performance in HBO's production of Mandela.
A veteran behind the scenes as well, he served as executive producer of both Buffalo Soldier, a dramatic story of America's first all-black cavalry unit, and Freedom Song, a story about the civil rights movement, for which he received an Emmy Award nomination for best supporting actor.
In response to the AIDS crisis in Africa, Glover became the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program. In 2001, he assumed the board chairmanship of TransAfrica Forum, an African-American lobbying organization on Africa and the Caribbean. He also actively serves on the board of the Algebra Project, a math empowerment program developed by civil rights veteran Bob Moses.
Watkins, associate dean for postdoctoral programs and professor of cardiac surgery at the School of Medicine, says that while most people know Glover as an "incredible actor," they should also see a staunch activist and human rights advocate.
"What attracted me to securing Danny was his work in trying to execute Dr. King's dream, both nationally and internationally--chiefly his activist work with TransAfrica Forum," Watkins says. "And, of course, I was blown away by Lethal Weapon."
The Ideals Award, an occasionally bestowed honor, will be presented to Harry Belafonte, who was the event's keynote speaker in 1985. Probably best known as the singer who popularized calypso music in America in the 1950s, Belafonte has enjoyed a lengthy and diverse career as an actor, producer and music composer and arranger. He was the first black performer to win an Emmy (for Tonight With Belafonte) and the first recording artist to have an album sell over a million copies (Calypso). A close friend of Martin Luther King, Belafonte dedicated himself to activism following the civil rights leader's slaying and has fought against racism, violence and world hunger.
Watkins, a longtime friend of Belafonte's, says the entertainer has been a true leader of "the movement" for more than three decades. The award, he says, recognizes Belafonte's "lifetime commitment to and articulation of racial issues designed to promote democracy."
An estimated 1,000 people are expected at the commemoration event, which will include musical entertainment by the United Voices choir, a gospel group whose ranks include Hopkins staff and community members.
Those who are unable to attend in person can view the event on closed-circuit television at 218 Maryland Hall, Homewood; Kossiakoff Center, APL; East Wing Auditorium, Bloomberg School of Public Health; Surgical Conference Room 560, A Building, 5th floor center, Bayview; and Tilghman Auditorium, Hurd Hall and Patient Channel 60, JHH.
The event also will include the 11th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards ceremony, in which eight Hopkins employees will be honored for demonstrating through community service the spirit of volunteerism and citizenship that characterized King's life (see story below).
Nominees are evaluated by panels of faculty and staff at their institutions and then are recommended to the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration executive committee, which selects the winners. A seven-member panel reviews the university nominations, and a four-member panel evaluates hospital nominees.
In making its decision, each panel looks at five criteria: how vital the project is to the well-being of the community; how well-received and well-supported the project is within the community; the impact of the person's participation on the overall project; the impact on the community; and the person's commitment to the activity or project.