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2021 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium


Jelani Cobb, a Black man in a suit jacket, smiles at the camera; in the foreground: bookshelves and a computer

Jelani Cobb


The 2021 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium will focus on the theme “Cashing Our Promissory Note: Race, Justice, and Reparation,” based on the powerful excerpt from the Rev. Dr. King's speech at the March on Washington in 1963. This event is part of Africana Studies Distinguished Lecture Series, and will take place on Wednesday, February 3, from 5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. ET. Author, historian, and journalist Jelani Cobb, will give the keynote address at this year’s symposium. Cobb is the Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism at Columbia University as well as staff writer for The New Yorker, where he writes about race, politics, and injustice. He is well-known for his prominently featured role in Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary "13th" about the mass incarceration of Black Americans. He is also the author of several books, including "Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress," "To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic," and "The Devil & Dave Chappelle and Other Essays." Cobb was the producer and correspondent of PBS Frontline’s investigative series "Policing the Police," for which he was awarded the Walter Bernstein Award from the Writer’s Guild of America in 2017. The event will include a keynote address and a moderated Q&A.

“In a sense, we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.  This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the in-alienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” --Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963, I Have A Dream


MLK, seated, looks off to his right, his hands folding in front of him

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Join for a post-Symposium Lunch to discuss this theme

Please join us for a virtual lunch on Wednesday, February 10 to continue the conversation about the theme of this year’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium “Cashing Our Promissory Note: Race, Justice, and Reparation.” This event is hosted by the Africana Center, the Division for Student Diversity and Inclusion, Tisch College for Civic Engagement, and the University Chaplaincy. The lunch will take place on Wednesday, February 10 from 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. ET, and will include an opening reflection on Dr. Jelani Cobb's keynote address and facilitated discussion groups. Please register by 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 9 to receive a GrubHub coupon (please note: only Tufts students, faculty, and staff are eligible to receive the coupon). You will receive Zoom information and your lunch coupon on Tuesday, February 9. Please email University Chaplaincy program manager Nora Bond with any questions, and register below. We will be so glad to continue to be in conversation about this year's theme.

Symposium Event Details

Tufts community members, including students, staff, faculty, and alumni, in addition to the wider community are welcome to attend this event. Note: you can register for the gathering anytime, including during the 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. event; there is no livestream. There will be a moderated Q&A, and participants can submit questions. The schedule for the evening is below:

5:00pmET – Opening offering from:

  • Azmera Hammouri-Davis, Africana Spirituality Advisor
  • Katrina Moore, Director of the Africana Center
  • Dr. Anthony Monaco, Tufts University President
  • Dr. Kerri K. Greenidge, Assistant Professor Department of Studies in Race Colonialism and Diaspora, Interim Director, Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, Director of American Studies Program
  • Dr. H. Adlai Murdoch, Director of Africana Studies

5:15pmET – Keynote – Dr. Jelani Cobb 

5:45pm ET – Q&A (30 mins) 

6:15pmET – Concluding remarks  

  • Reverend Elyse Nelson Winger, University Chaplain

6:20 - Closing Song

  • Harrison Clark, A22, S-Factor A Capella Group

This event is part of the Africana Studies Distinguished Lecture Series at Tufts University. This event is sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, the Chief Diversity Officers, the Africana Center at Tufts University, Africana Studies, the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy: Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tisch College of Civic Life, and the University Chaplaincy.


You can download the flyer here. 

Azmera Hammouri-Davis

Azmera Hammouri-Davis was appointed the Africana Spirituality advisor in September 2020. She is an award winning poet, prayer-warrior, activist, producer and educator from Keaáu, Hawaii with a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard University. Her seminal project entitled "Capoetics: Exploring the Power of Movement + Word through Capoeira and Poetry" received numerous awards including the Maya Angelou Artistry Award, Most Innovative Trojan Award and the J. William Fulbright Dramatic Arts Research Award funded by the Department of State to live, train and study Black religiosity via the Afro-Brazillian tradition of Capoeira in Salvador Bahia, Brasil for ten months. Fluent in portuguese, Azmera's activism involves local, national and international efforts. She has spoken at various academic, cultural and religious institutions including but not limited to Harvard University, Tufts University, University of California Berkeley, University of Southern California, Federal University of Bahia, South Eastern Council of Latin American Studies (SECOLAS), South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA), Samuel Dewitt Proctor conference, Black Lives Matter Boston, Friends of Sabeel North America, Ramallah Friends School, First Church Cambridge, Non-Violence International, Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship, among countless others.

Katrina Moore

Katrina Moore is the Director of the Africana Center at Tufts, where she serves as a campus resource and educates the community on emerging issues regarding students of African descent. She is responsible for establishing the Center's vision and advocates on behalf of students in cases of intolerance and/or discrimination. She works closely with students and student organizations to develop effective programs and initiatives to enhance the co-curricular experience of students and build leadership skills. A sought-after campus leader, Katrina participates in committee assignments, both within the division and the broader Tufts community.

Dr. Anthony Monaco

Anthony P. Monaco became the thirteenth president of Tufts University in 2011. An accomplished leader, scientist and teacher, Dr. Monaco brings to the Tufts presidency deep-rooted commitments to academic excellence, diversity, access and inclusion, a global perspective, and a keen awareness of the power of higher education to impact individuals and society. Major educational initiatives of President Monaco’s tenure have included the acquisition of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, enhancing the arts at Tufts. President Monaco is also deeply committed to the well-being of the campus community and currently chairs university-wide councils or steering committees dedicated to advancing diversity and inclusion, preventing sexual misconduct, and supporting sustainability at Tufts. Each of these efforts builds on a comprehensive assessment of how Tufts could best put its values and institutional commitments into practice. As pro-vice-chancellor for planning and resources at Oxford University from 2007 until his arrival at Tufts, Dr. Monaco developed and led strategic-planning initiatives for academic programs, capital improvements and budgeting and resource allocation. He was an active steward of programs to make an Oxford education possible for students from a range of backgrounds. A distinguished geneticist, Dr. Monaco’s doctoral research led to a landmark discovery: the gene responsible for X-linked Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies. At Oxford, he led the Neurogenetics Group, a team of scientists investigating the genetic underpinnings of such neurodevelopmental disorders as autism, specific language impairment, and dyslexia. His research group was the first to identify a gene (FOXP2) specifically involved in human speech and language. Dr. Monaco directed Oxford University’s Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics from 1998-2007 and was then appointed as pro-vice-chancellor for planning and resources. At Tufts, President Monaco holds faculty appointments as a professor of biology in the School of Arts and Sciences and as a professor of neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine. A native of Wilmington, Delaware, he received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 1981, and his M.D. and Ph.D. through Harvard Medical School’s Medical Scientist Training Program, where he specialized in the genetics of neurological disorders. President Monaco was elected to the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in 2006 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2018, and is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (U.K.) and the Royal Society of Medicine and a member of the Association of American Physicians. President Monaco is married to Zoia Monaco, Ph.D., a molecular geneticist who investigates chromosome and genome stability in stem cells. They have three sons. President Monaco enjoys reading history and fiction and keeps fit by swimming and running.

Dr. Kerri Greenidge

Dr. Kerri Greenidge is the Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professorship of Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora. She received her Doctorate in American Studies from Boston University, where her specialty included African-American history, American political history, and African-American and African diasporic literature in the post-emancipation and early modern era. Her research explores the role of African-American literature in the creation of radical Black political consciousness, particularly as it relates to local elections and Democratic populism during the Progressive Era. She has taught at Boston University, the University of Massachusetts, and Emerson College. Her work includes historical research for the Wiley-Blackwell Anthology of African-American Literature, the Oxford African American Studies Center, and PBS. For nine years she worked as a historian for Boston African American National Historical Site in Boston, through which she published her first book, Boston Abolitionists (2006). She is currently interim Director of American Studies at Tufts University, and co-director of the African American Trail Project at the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy (CSRD).

Dr. H. Adlai Murdoch

Adlai Murdoch is a Professor of Francophone Studies and the Director of Africana Studies at Tufts University. He is the author of Creole Identity in the French Caribbean Novel and of Creolizing the Metropole: Migratory Metropolitan Caribbean Identities in Literature and Film, and the co-editor of Postcolonial Theory and Francophone Literary Studies, Francophone Cultures and Geographies of Identity, and Metropolitan Mosaics and Melting-Pots-Paris and Montreal in Francophone Literatures. His articles have appeared in Callaloo, Yale French Studies, Research in African Literatures, Francophone Postcolonial Studies, The Journal of Contemporary French Studies (Sites), L'Esprit créateur, the Journal of Romance Studies, the International Journal of Francophone Studies, and American Literary History.

Reverend Elyse Nelson Winger

Rev. Elyse Nelson Winger became University Chaplain at Tufts University in October of 2020. She leads the Chaplaincy Team in supporting all religious, spiritual, and philosophical life at Tufts; educates about spiritual and ethical issues in society and the world; and coordinates pastoral care, multifaith initiatives, and strategic partnerships around the university and beyond. Before coming to Tufts, Rev. Nelson Winger served as Associate Dean of Students and Chaplain at Illinois Wesleyan University where she provided vision and leadership for religious, spiritual and multifaith life on campus and partnered with students, faculty and staff on a range of initiatives designed to support the University’s mission commitments to global citizenship, critical thinking, diversity, and the arts. She also led advocacy efforts related to students’ thriving, belonging, and well-being on campus and served as a Title IX deputy coordinator for student affairs.Rev. Nelson Winger is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and has served congregations in Cairo, Egypt, Dearborn, Michigan and Bloomington, Illinois. She has served as a committee or board member for numerous faith-based and non-profit organizations, including nine years of service on the Board of Directors for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. She also enjoys writing and wrote a column for Gather magazine that twice received honorable mention in The Associated Church Press’ “The Best of the Christian Press” awards.

Harrison Clark, A22

Harrison Clark (he/him/his) is a writer, composer, singer, drummer, and music director from Seattle, Washington who has dedicated his artistry to the celebration, performance, and preservation of Black American Music. As a composer, Harrison has composed and arranged for a variety of instrumentations including jazz big band, string quartet, choir, and a full orchestra. He received the 2018 Cornelius Ayer Wood Prize in the Arts for his Cantata-style adaption of his debut album “Essentially Indifferent.” As a solo artist, Harrison has released two full length albums, and his third album, “We’ve Met Before” is set to be released in the Spring of 2021. Currently, Harrison is writing his first stage musical entitled “Almanac”, a musical commentary on the ongoing evolution of minstrel blackface performance inspired by former Tufts Music Department Chair T.J. Anderson’s 1983 show “Thomas Jefferson’s Minstrels.” In 2020, Harrison started creating and performing under the pseudonym “Calvin Hurston Jr.” and all his work, past, present, and future, can be found at