Brandeis celebrates MLK Legacy

A line snaked around the Shapiro Campus Center half an hour before the theater opened, as an eager community readied for an evening of motivational music, dance, poetry, and speeches – all celebrating the life and ideas of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The struggle for African American civil rights did not begin with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So why do we come together this evening to celebrate his life and legacy?” said Chad Williams, chair of the African and Afro-American Studies Department and host of the celebration. “Quite simply, because if any American deserves a national holiday, deserves to be recognized and honored for advancing the very idea of progress in this country’s long, contentious racial history, for compelling each and every one of us to be better human beings, it is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

The 9th-annual memorial, “For the Love of a Dream!” included performances by Emmy Award-winning Sean Fielder and the Boston Tap Company, Brandeis’ own Kaos Kids, songstress Erica Barnett, Brandeis Bridge Fellow Malakani Mak, motivational speaker Jermaine Hamilton and talks by the MLK Scholarship students who fundraised for five African American and five Jewish students to travel to Israel together, and the keynote team of Jane and Hubert Sapp.

The event occurred in the same space, the former Ford Hall, in which a group of about 70 African-American Brandeis students, galvanized by King’s assassination, occupied for 11 days in 1969, demanding improvements in the campus racial climate, enhancements in the educational experience of black students and creation of more opportunities for future black students to attend the university. One of their demands was for the administration to create 10 scholarships named for King, which continue to be important tools of educational opportunity.

From a rousing performance of Sam Cook’s “A Change is Gonna Come” to the emotional poetry of Bronte Velez to a dramatic reading King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, the theater reverberated with the hoots and hollers, snaps and applause of an engaged and inspired audience.

Williams noted his students often ask how African Americans were able to withstand so much throughout history. “They did it with love. They did it with song…Dance has always been an integral part of how African Americans expressed their dreams of equality,” Williams said, who was moved by the evening’s performances.

Hubert Sapp, who was a special assistant to King in the early 1960s, recalled his memories of King and his work on behalf of him.

He described his boss as brilliant and people-oriented, and shared how important King’s anti-war stance became to his organizations and to his eventual notoriety. He and Williams noted that while King was willing to compromise, he was very strategic. Before the board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which he headed, voted on their position on the Vietnam War, King told them he’d support their decision but in his capacity as a pastor, he’d continue to utilize any opportunity to speak out against it. The board voted unanimously to oppose the war.

Jane Sapp spoke to the youth in the audience, telling them to “Find that thing that you become so passionate about that you would be unwilling to compromise.

“I’m always excited when I have the opportunity to speak or sing or interact with young people,” Jane Sapp said. “We need you more than ever. We need your energy, your commitment, your voice.”

Source: Debra Flicman, BrandeisNOW



Russia’s Arctic Oil Rig

The Russian government and the Greenpeace organization are arguing over the Prirazlomnaya oil rig in the Arctic. The rig is owned by Gazprom, a Russian state-owned company. The base of the rig is so heavy that it cannot be moved, and it sits about 20 meters (66 feet) deep on a seabed.

The issue with the rig is not its structure. Instead, it is the possibility of a spill in the Arctic waters. Campaigners say that “the nature here is unique,” as the animals, such as polar bears, walruses, and narwhals, have nowhere else to go if there is a spill. The arctic ocean has two narrow entrances to the remaining oceans: one by Iceland and the other by Alaska. Therefore, there is little mixing with other seas, causing oil spills to stay in the Arctic. Also, an oil spill would be catastrophic because of the low temperatures in the north. In tropical waters, oil becomes absorbed readily by bacteria and other microorganisms. These microorganisms do not live in cold waters, so the oil would stay in the Arctic for about 100 years. Companies also do not have the technology to collect spilled oil under ice.

Gazprom claims that they have extremely safe measures intact. The rig is in shallow water, enabling the wellhead to be inside the rig. There is also a cut-off system  that offloads the oil into tanks. There are detections on the tanks to detect movement, and if there is too much movement by a factor such as ice, oil stops flowing. The company also claims that they could clean up a spill under the ice by using icebreakers. Two icebreakers are near the rig, which would enable skimmers to enter the water and clean oil if needed.

The safety measurements are not enough for Greenpeace activists, who repeatedly attempt to climb the rig in protest. By climbing the rig, the activists are creating risk to the rig’s possibility of spilling. Workers have even started to spray the rig with fire hoses while the activists attempt to climb up, but the activists claim that the use of inflatable boats and lightweight ropes deters them from being a threat.

This year, when 30 Greenpeace activists attempted to climb the rig, the FSB, Russia’s federal security service, pulled the activists off, pointed guns at them, and opened fire onto the water. The activists are now in jail with charges of “piracy as part of an organized group.” The Netherlands, where the Greenpeace ship that went to the Arctic is registered, is currently challenging the arrests with an argument of the “Convention of the Law of the Sea.”

View the full article here.

 Russia Oil Rig

Kathryn Davis passes away at age 106

Kathryn Davis, one of the United States’ most well-known philanthropists, passed away at age 106 at her home in Hobe Sound, Florida. Dr. Davis has made an everlasting impact at Brandeis University through her funding of the Davis Peace Projects. In 2007, for her 100th birthday, she pledged $1 million in order to provide 100 college students with the opportunity to develop peace projects that would be implemented throughout the world. She kept on providing grants for students all over the country since then. This year, Ardak Meterkulova ’13 and Mangaliso Mohammed ’13 were the recipients of the grant, and they will be implementing AIDS projects in Kazakhstan and Swaziland. Brandeis University is forever grateful for Dr. Davis’ generosity and kindness. Click here for more information regarding Kathryn Davis’ life and accomplishments.


Environmental Health and Justice JBS: Fall 2013



Counts for 4 courses – 16 credits – No prerequisites

Satisfies multiple requirements & majors/minors: ENVS, IGS, HSSP, SJSP, LGLS, WGS, others
Applications open now, rolling admissions, don’t delay!
Instructors: Laura Goldin, with Drs. James Stewart, Joe Allen (Harvard School of Public Health),Ted Myatt & Matt Fragala. 
Engage directly with the community as you delve deeply into the law, policy, social impacts and science of pressing environmental justice and environmental health challenges facing individuals and families today.  You’ll work directly with some of the most disadvantaged communities from inner-city Boston and Waltham to the rural coal mining mountains of Appalachia, as we battle issues such as toxic exposure, access to environmentally safe housing, healthy food and open space, destruction of age-old mountains and pollution of streams for coal extraction.
For more info and to apply:
Also don’t hesitate to contact Laura Goldin or Program Manager, Brandeis-Led Study Programs Amber Thatcher


Volunteering opportunity


Unite-Here Local 26 represents Boston’s hotel and hospitality workers (including Brandeis’ cafeteria workers), and we are looking for volunteers to help us radically improve working conditions in the service industry. Without workers united to demand better lives for themselves and their communities, employers will make life hell for workers in hotels, restaurants, and cafeterias.


We need volunteers who are PASSIONATE, DEDICATED, and READY to help us win justice for Boston workers!

For folks who want to get involved and learn how to organize, Local 26 is hosting a Movement Organizing Training on Feb. 16th. Attendees will learn how we organize through story-telling and agitation, and how we build the union by building leadership.
PLEASE NOTE that workshop space is limited: if you’d like to attend, we need to have a meeting beforehand. Please email Jon ( or Andrew ( if you’d like to attend.

Harry Potter Alliance Update

HPA Update by Nina Hersher, Co-president of the Harry Potter Alliance: Imagine Better

Last semester alum Andrew Slack ’02, came to speak on campus which lead to the creation of the “The Harry Potter Alliance: Imagine Better,” chapter at Brandeis University! Just instituted in Fall of 2012 , we are looking forward to launching ourselves into effective and fun social justice projects this semester. Last semester the HPA held a book drive for the Children’s Hospital in Boston which was a smashing success.

What we do:
The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) is a 501c3 nonprofit that takes an outside-of-the-box approach to civic engagement by using parallels from the Harry Potter books to educate and mobilize young people across the world toward issues of literacy, equality, and human rights. Our mission is to empower our members to act like the heroes that they love by acting for a better world. By bringing together fans of blockbuster books, TV shows, movies, and YouTube celebrities we are harnessing the power of popular culture toward making our world a better place. Our goal is to make civic engagement exciting by channeling the entertainment-saturated facets of our culture toward mobilization for deep and lasting social change.

As we enter the new semester…

–    We will have a table at the winter involvement fair this Sunday the 20th from 1-3pm.
–    This Wednesday the 23rd will be our first meeting and we encourage anyone interested to attend! It will be held at 7:30 in the Peace Room located in Usdan.

Co-presidents Nina Hersher and Sarah Zoloth may be contacted for further information at or

Check out our Facebook page:



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