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Martin Luther King Lecture

The Martin Luther King Lecture is an annual event aimed at promoting Martin Luther King’s legacy and, as such, contributing to a just society. The lectures are organised by Justice and Peace, the Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam, and the Martin Luther King Lecture Foundation, and in collaboration with the Haagse Hogeschool and student-association Tribez.

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was an American Baptist minister, a prominent member of the Civil Rights Movement, and a strong advocate of peaceful resistance. In 1955, he was one of the organisers of the boycott of city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, as a protest against the racial segregation in public transport. He also led the mass-demonstration in Washington D.C. on the 28th of August 1963. This is where he gave his world-famous ‘I have a dream’-speech. In 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize, and the following year he received an honorary doctorate from the VU Amsterdam. He was shot in Memphis on the 4th of April 1968, when he was 39 years old.

“Tell them about the dream!”

Mahalia Jackson

Martin Luther King Lecture 2021

On Thursday 28 October, the Martin Luther King lecture was held at the VU University Amsterdam, this year as part of the Black Heritage Night. During this inspiring evening with interesting guests, impressive live performances and powerful words we reflected on the dark pages of the slavery past and it’s impact, but we also celebrated black heritage. The annual Martin Luther King Lecture was given by Jennifer Tosch, founder of Black Heritage Tours in Amsterdam, New York and Brussels. Co-founder of the Sites of Memory Foundation and member of the Mapping Slavery Project Netherlands. In her lecture, Tosch emphasised the role of women in activism. For although women’s voices were barely heard in the past, history teaches us that they stood up for their rights.

Martin Luther King Lecture 2020

In 2020 we organized an online edition on the 10th of December, on the International Day of Human Rights. The 2020 lecture was broadcasted live from The Hague and consisted of a spoken word competition, performances and a lecture by Dr. Wes Bellamy, former Deputy Mayor of Charlottesville USA and author of “Monumental: it was never about a statue”. The theme of the lecture was “We cannot walk alone”, a quote from the famous ‘I have a dream’ speech by Martin Luther King in 1963. A statement that fits well with 2020, a year in which worldwide and in the Netherlands division and violence flared up, but people and movements are also looking for connection. The lecture was organized in collaboration with VU University Amsterdam, The Hague University of Applied Sciences, Student Association Tribez and Museum Sound & Vision The Hague. Soon a video will be published on our social media channels with all the highlights of the event. You can watch the entire lecture via this link on Crowdcast.

Spoken Word competition 2020

Part of the Martin Luther King lecture

“We cannot walk alone”

Black, white, and everything in between – we need to learn to live in harmony rather than opposition. Martin Luther King had a dream: that people would no longer be judged by the colour of their skin. Until his assassination in 1968, King was the leader of the American Civil Rights Movement. This movement ensured the acquisition of voting rights for African-Americans. King’s most famous words were “I have a dream”, but he also said “We cannot walk alone” – referring to the need for people of all colours to join hands in the non-violent fight for civil rights. With his peaceful protests, he even received the Nobel Peace Prize. The statement “We cannot walk alone” was the theme of the competition and all the spoken words were judged by an expert jury; chairman Elten Kiene (Spoken Word artist), Hella van der Wijst (TV host and producer), Shanica Romney (board of the student association Tribez) and Domenica Ghidei (board of the Martin Luther King lecture Foundation).

We received many entries and the quality was very high, so the jury was faced with a difficult choice. In the end, 4 participants were selected who received a prize for their contribution, namely Achi Chioma (incentive prize), Myron Hamming (3rd prize), Benzokarim (2nd prize) and the winner of the competition was Amara van der Elst. All four of them performed their Spoken Word speech live to the public during the event. You can watch the Spoken Word lectures via this link.

Amara van der Elst, winner Spoken Word contest 2020

Previous Lectures

The first MLK Lecture, Promised Land, took place on Martin Luther King Jr.’s 40th date of death (the 4th of April 2008) and was organised by Prof. dr. James Kennedy, Professor of Dutch History at the University of Amsterdam. The speakers of the subsequent lectures were: Paul Scheffer, Rev. Jesse Jackson, former prime-minister J.-P. Balkenende, Prof. dr. Mary King, Rev. Mpho Tutu, Lodewijk Asscher, Nasrdin Dchar, Jörgen Raymann (with Don Ceder, Giovanca, and Jerry King Luther Afriyie) and Samira Rafaela.

Photo by Daniella van Bergen

“Even if you are not concerned with racism, racism is concerning you”
Jerry King Luther Afriyie

About the Martin Luther King Lecture Foundation

The idea for the Martin Luther King Lecture was born in November 2007, during a visit of King-biographer Clayborne Carson and Mark Gonnerman (both from Stanford University). Following this, Theo Wierema, director of De Boskant, took the initiative to organise an annual MLK Lecture, and he invited Jacob Bouwman from the Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam to be his partner. It made sense to involve the VU, due to the honorary doctorate that Dr. King received there in 1965. This honorary doctorate still inspires the VU in its inclusive approach to diversity. The project pays homage to King’s views and ideas, born from the conviction that these are still of social relevance.

In December 2012, both partners founded the Martin Luther King Lecture Foundation. Since 2013, all lectures are organised by this foundation. And since 2016, Justice and Peace became the organising partner instead of De Boskant. In The Hague, Justice and Peace is collaborating with the Haagse Hogeschool.

The MLK lecture exists since 2008. Until 2016 it was organized by Foundation r.k. Spiritual center De Boskant in The Hague and VU University Amsterdam, then by Justice and Peace Netherlands and the VU, united in the Martin Luther King Lecture Foundation.