Multicultural Affairs

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MLK event to mix spoken word, hip hop

By K. Williams Brown
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The Statesman Journal

Mark Gonzales

He's appeared on HBO's Def Poetry, spoken nationally about the plight of Gazans and lectured the U.N. and members of the U.S. Congress.

Mark Gonzales, a celebrated spoken-word and hip-hop artist, will give two free shows at Willamette University as part of the school's celebrations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Gonzales' show is called "King's Legacy: A Lyrical Look."

Gonzales speaks about oppression around the world but eschews Power Point presentations in favor of elegantly constructed and devastatingly delivered poetry and raps.

"I think he's going to share his thoughts, his passions — he's going to talk a little bit about the MLK legacy, and the performance side of him will blend into that," said Gordy Toyama, the director of Multicultural Affairs and the chair of the MLK committee. "It's not a hip-hop concert, per se."

Gonzales' performance is part of a week-long celebration at the campus, and, Toyama said, it will hopefully give students and the wider community a new perspective on the continuing struggle for civil rights.

"Traditionally, when people think about civil rights and Dr. King, they think of civil rights from the black experience," he said. "What happened then still exists now, it just exists in different communities ... I think that's the bridge we're trying to create. This is not a historical thing — in reality, work is still happening today, and here's folks that are doing it."

There's at least one group that should be especially excited: The middle and high school students of Willamette Academy studied Gonzales over the summer, and he'll work with them while he's in town.

The free lecture happens 11:30 a.m. today in Cone Chapel and 7:30 tonight in the Putnam University Center's CAT Cavern on Willamette University's campus. The evening show should be a bit more "unleashed," Toyama said.

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