Tag: Sanders Theatre

Colin Kaepernick, Dave Chappelle and Bryan Stevenson Are Among Those Honored With Harvard’s 2018 W.E.B. DuBois Medal

The Hutchins Center for African and African American Research honors eight distinguished people with the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal. Honorees include Colin Kaepernick, Dave Chappelle, Kenneth I. Chenault, Shirley Ann Jackson, Pamela J. Joyner, Florence C. Ladd, Bryan Stevenson, and Kehinde Wiley. (Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer)

by Jill Radsken via news.harvard.edu

With powerful, poignant speeches from presenters and honorees alike, this year’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal awards felt more like a gospel church service-cum-rock concert than an academic award ceremony.

Athlete and social activist Colin Kaepernick set the tone before an exhilarated crowd that included some 150 local high school students, declaring that people in positions of privilege and power have a “responsibility” to speak up for the powerless.

“People live with this every single day and we expect them to thrive in situations where they’re just trying to survive,” said the NFL free agent who famously took a knee during pregame national anthems to protest racial injustice in America. “If we don’t, we become complicit. It is our duty to fight for them.”

Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, dedicated his award to the “people who did so much more with so much less.” (Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer)

Kaepernick was one of the eight laureates who received medals at Sanders Theatre on Thursday night. Others were comedian Dave Chappelle; writer and social critic Florence C. Ladd; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson; renowned artist Kehinde Wiley; General Catalyst chairman and CEO Kenneth I. Chenault; philanthropist and Avid Partners founder Pamela J. Joyner; and human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson.

The awards are bestowed by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research for contributions to African and African-American history and culture. Ladd, the former director of the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe, donned her medal, then pumped her fist in the air and told the cheering crowd: “A takeaway must be protest, protest, protest.”

Chappelle and Joyner
Pamela J. Joyner and Dave Chappelle enjoy hearing parts of Chappelle’s famous skit “The Racial Draft” being recited by incoming Dean of Social Science Lawrence D. Bobo. (Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer)

Stevenson, M.P.P. ’85, J.D. ’85, L.L.D. ’15, who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, dedicated his award to “people who did so much more with so much less” and asked the audience to think of hope as “your superpower.” To the students, he made a more pointed request: “You’ve got to be willing to do uncomfortable things. You’ve got to be willing to do inconvenient things. Don’t ever think that your grades are a measure of your capacity.” Stevenson himself won a historic Supreme Court ruling that declared that mandatory sentences of life without parole for children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.

Moments of humor punctuated the call to resistance, particularly when presenter and incoming Dean of Social Science Lawrence D. Bobo recited parts of Chappelle’s famous skit “The Racial Draft.“ He called the comedian a “teller of uncomfortable truths.”

Chappelle, for his part, praised his parents, especially his mother, a professor of African-American studies. “She raised me well. I am not an uninformed person,” he said.

Chappelle said he was humbled to be on stage with his fellow honorees: “You all make me want to be better,” he said. He promised another comedy special and ended his speech with a quote from favorite writer James Baldwin’s book “The Fire Next Time.”

“God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water. The fire next time.”

Hutchins Center director Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor, reflected on the critical nature of the honorees’ work in the fight for racial and social justice.

“When we recall the dramatic progress we’ve made in this country’s struggle for civil rights, it’s tempting to remember only our long arc of progress. But we find ourselves in a new nadir in our country’s race relations,” he said, quoting Du Bois, the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard.

“Agitation is a necessary evil to tell of the ills of the suffering. Without it, many a nation has been lulled to false security and preened itself with virtues it did not possess.”

To watch the full ceremony, click below:

W.E.B. Du Bois Medal Recipients Honored at Harvard for Contributions to African American Culture

DuBois Medal recipient Nasir “Nas” Jones (PHOTO BY KAYANA SZYMCZAK FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)

Awarded since 2000, the Du Bois Medal is Harvard’s highest honor in the field of African and African American Studies. It is awarded to individuals in the U.S. and across the globe in recognition of their contributions to African American culture and the life of the mind.

The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research hosted the celebration at Sanders Theatre. Ali picked up the honor earlier in September, but a video of his presentation played during the ceremony. Last year’s honorees included Shonda RhimesMaya Angelou, and Harvey Weinstein.

article by Meredith Goldstein via bostonglobe.com; additions by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

Herbie Hancock Named Harvard’s 2014 Norton Professor of Poetry

Jazz Luminary Herbie Hancock (Photograph by Guillaume Laurent/Wikipedia)

World-renowned jazz musician and composer Herbie Hancock has been named Harvard University’s 2014 Norton Professor of Poetry.  Hancock will give six lectures this spring on topics that include “The Wisdom of Miles Davis,” “Breaking the Rules,” “Cultural Diplomacy and the Voice Of Freedom,” and “Innovation and New Technologies.”

“It is a great privilege to welcome Herbie Hancock as the Norton Professor,” said Homi Bhabha, Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities and Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center, which is hosting the lectures. “His unsurpassed contribution to the history of music has revolutionized our understanding of the ways in which the arts transform our civic consciousness and our spiritual aspirations. It would be no exaggeration to say that he has defined cultural innovation in each decade of the last half-century.”

Born on April 12, 1940, in Chicago, Hancock grew up in a family that wasn’t particularly musical, according to Biography.com. At the age of seven he began studying European classical music, which continues to influence both his playing and composing. At the same time, he was influenced by jazz pianists like George Shearing, Oscar Peterson, and Erroll Garner. As a young teenager, he was playing Mozart with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As a member of the Miles Davis Quintet (which he joined in 1963), Hancock performed on dozens of albums and established a reputation as an outstanding composer who explored genres outside traditional jazz, ranging from fusion to R&B to hip-hop.

Hancock has also provided scores for a number of TV and film projects, including Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert cartoon series and an accompanying album, as well as for the movies Death Wish (1974), A Soldier’s Story (1984), and Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (1986). He won an Academy Award for the score to ‘Round Midnight (1986); his other honors include 14 Grammy Awards, including Album Of The Year for River: The Joni Letters.

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