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MLK celebration to feature exhibit in Lobby 7

MIT's 25th annual celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will include an interactive exhibit in Lobby 7, designed by 15 students during an IAP seminar.

The theme for this year's celebration is "Teaching and Learning: The Key to Full Inclusion." Keynote speaker for the celebratory breakfast on Thursday, Feb. 4 in Morss Hall at Walker Memorial is the Hon. Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the NAACP. Invitations are required for the breakfast, hosted by President and Mrs. Charles M. Vest. Requests for invitations must be made by February 1. For information, see

The Lobby 7 exhibit is the brainchild of Eto Otitigbe, a senior in mechanical engineering and a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership award winner last year. The exhibit will be installed from February 1-4. Musical events are planned for Lobby 7 at noon and 5pm on February 4, the day of the breakfast. A panel discussion involving the designers will be held on February 5. It will be open to the MIT community.

"The MLK Design Seminar will encourage interaction and foster communication between members of the MIT community and members of diverse backgrounds," said Mr. Otitigbe, the project coordinator. "The installation will be designed to confront all who navigate through Lobby 7 each day. This unavoidable confrontation and the notion of physically being stopped will make people deal with the issues that the installation represents."

The seminar's participants will meet daily during IAP in the design studio to discuss concept, modeling, design, construction and installation. The exhibit will be shaped, in part, by discussions among the 15 students working on the project and social activists and artists from MIT and the surrounding community.

The students participated in a "mini-course" on the civil rights movement last week, directed by Tobie Weiner of political science, the Lobby 7 event coordinator for the Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Celebration Coordinating Committee.

"They watched some of the Eyes on the Prize videos and a selection from the Chicano series and completed readings on the civil rights movement as well as on other struggles for civil and human rights in the US and other parts of the world," said Ms. Weiner, an MLK Leadership Award winner in 1998 along with Mr. Otitigbe.

"The seminar and installation will assemble many people around the theme of remembrance of Dr. King's struggle," Mr. Otitigbe said in describing the project. "It will focus on the principles of social justice, economic justice and human rights -- three pillars that Dr. King used as a foundation for his struggle. It is important to bring in various members of the MIT community and the Cambridge/Boston community to aid in the development of this task. The invited guests will be people who through their work have sought to communicate ideas similar to those Dr. King lived by."

Graduate student Lawrence Sass of architecture is the design advisor for the installation. Associate Dean Arnold Henderson Jr. and Gertrude Morris of housing are also involved in the project.


US Court of Appeals Chief Judge Emeritus A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., 70, keynote speaker at the 1983 and 1995 MLK celebrations at MIT, died on Dec. 14 at Massachusetts General Hospital after suffering a stroke.

He was an important voice in support of MIT in its 1993 appeal of the antitrust action against MIT and Ivy League schools brought by the US Justice Department in federal court in Philadelphia in 1992, alleging collusion in the awarding of financial aid. Judge Higginbotham, who had retired from the court in Philadelphia before the action reached the appeals level, was acting as the lawyer for the school district of Philadelphia, one of several groups which filed briefs for MIT in the case. The matter was eventually settled to MIT's satisfaction.

Judge Higginbotham framed his 1995 speech at MIT as an imaginary letter from Dr. King to Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, then speaker of the US House of Representatives. He concluded by reciting a poem by Langston Hughes, which ends:

This dream today embattled,
With its back against the wall --
To save the dream for one
It must be saved for all.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 13, 1999.

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