Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017
This past Monday, our campus and community reflected on the life and legacy of a giant: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Though his life was tragically cut short nearly 50 years ago, his call for us to pursue peace, justice, and equality endures.
At the University of Kentucky, we aim to exemplify Dr. King’s teachings, not just on the day that bears his name, but throughout the year. We do so by sustaining an environment of belonging—one where people of all identities, backgrounds, and perspectives feel welcome.
Our Martin Luther King Center (MLKC) within the UK Office of Institutional Diversity works diligently to build upon this commitment – to create a more diverse and inclusive campus that celebrates, supports, and engages students who are underrepresented in the student body.
MLKC provides and promotes invaluable services and initiatives on our campus, including the Scholar-in-Residence program, a position held by faculty members on rotating bi-annual basis. The goals of this new program are four fold:
- to aid the director of the Center in enhancing scholarly programming,
- to give even greater emphasis to Dr. King’s focus on global social justice,
- to continue the Center’s long history of outreach programming into the Lexington community,
- and to align the Center more closely with academic life at the University.
Our current MLKC Scholar-in-Residence is Professor Gerald L. Smith, an professor of history and the general co-editor of the Kentucky African American Encyclopedia Project.
During his time with MLKC, he has organized and participated in many programs, including speaking at the MLK vigil, working with the MLKC staff to organize the “Lunch and Learn” programs, meeting with students, and introducing the speakers that MLKC hosts each month. He also teaches a course in the MLKC on the life and legacy of MLK; the course enables students to discuss various contemporary topics as they relate to Dr. King's philosophy. In the spring of 2014, Smith took his “King class” to participate in the 50th anniversary of the March on Frankfort.
One of Smith’s proudest accomplishments during his tenure as Scholar-in-Residence organizing a panel on "Race, Sport, and the University of Kentucky" with Nate Northington, the first black athlete to sign at UK, and the Black Student Union leaders of the 1960s who returned to campus to share their stories. One of Dr. King's close confidents, Dr. Bernard Lafayette, was also invited to give a lecture; he was active in the Selma, Alabama movement in the 1960s. Currently, Smith is working with the Louie Nunn Oral History Program in hopes of recruiting students to assist in transcribing and indexing oral histories of African Americans in Lexington. He hopes to get some students engaged in research projects as they relate to race in Kentucky and the South.
Please join me in thanking Dr. Gerald Smith for his significant work.
As we continue to strive toward a more diverse and inclusive campus, we must remember that we share in the responsibility of creating and sustaining a community of belonging for everyone.
Thank you for your work on behalf of that commitment.
Timothy S. Tracy