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Prominent Racial Equity Activists Deliver 2021 MLK Symposium Keynote Lecture


For the 35th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium Lecture, the University of Michigan welcomed Gloria House — poet, essayist, educator and human rights activist — and Malik Yakini — co-founder and executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network — as the featured speakers.

Stephen Ward, associate professor in the Residential College and the Department of Afro and African American Studies at U-M, moderated the keynote conversation.

During the keynote lecture, House and Yakini addressed the symposium’s theme: “Where do we go from here.” Each speaker shared their personal experiences and the impactful work they are doing in Detroit and beyond. In addition, they offered their own ideas on what can be done to advance racial equity and antiracism efforts given the challenges facing society today. 





The Ross School of Business co-sponsored the MLK symposium keynote as part of its William K. McInally Memorial Lecture series, in partnership with U-M’s Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, a unit under the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  

About the speakers

Gloria House

House has been a prominent advocate for racial equity in Detroit for decades. She received her doctorate in American cultural history from U-M and went on to design the African American and African Studies major at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where she served as director of the program before retiring in 2014. She is a published author and editor with her studies, essays, and poems appearing in several local and national anthologies and periodicals. House was named the Kresge Foundation Eminent Artist of 2019, and is currently an organizer in the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Movement, Black Legacy Advancement Coalition, and Coalition for Police Transparency and Accountability.

Malik Yakini

Yakini is co-founder and executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, and co-founder of the National Black Food and Justice Alliance. DBCFSN operates a seven-acre urban farm and is spearheading the opening of the Detroit People’s Food Co-op, a cooperative grocery store in Detroit’s North End. Yakini is adamantly opposed to the system of white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy, and has an intense interest in contributing to the development of an international food sovereignty movement that embraces Black communities in the Americas, the Caribbean, and Africa.