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LeVar Burton to speak at King day celebration

January 3, 2008

Actor LeVar Burton, known for his role as Kunta Kinte in the award-winning television miniseries “Roots” and more recently as host of the PBS show “Reading Rainbow,” will speak at Wake Forest University Jan. 21 as part of a weeklong celebration of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. sponsored by Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State University. 

The program, featuring Burton’s address titled “On Common Ground:  Striving for Unity, Standing for Purpose,” will begin at 7 p.m. in Wait Chapel and is free and open to the public.  In addition to Burton’s speech, the Jan. 21 program will include performances by the Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State gospel choirs. 

"We will commemorate two historical milestones this year:  2007 was the 30th Anniversary of ‘Roots’ and 2008 is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King,” said Barbee Oakes, director of Wake Forest’s Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Burton, host and series producer of “Reading Rainbow,” the Emmy Award-winning PBS series for children, is an advocate for literacy.  He calls literacy “one of the fundamental building blocks of self-esteem” and says that “if you increase the level of literacy in society, you increase our potential for change, growth and understanding.”  He has hosted “Reading Rainbow” for 25 years. 

 “We are honored Mr. Burton accepted our invitation because we, too, believe that increasing the literacy of all our children is nonnegotiable if we are to attain the equality of man envisioned by Dr. King,” Oakes said.

Burton is also well-known for his role as Geordi La Forge in “Star Trek:  The Next Generation.”  He hosted the television special “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:  The Making of a Holiday” and played the role of King in the movie “Ali.”

Burton has many credits as a director and producer.  He directed several episodes of TV series “Star Trek:  Voyager” and “Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine” and also directed the television movie “The Tiger Woods Story” for Showtime.  He is president of Eagle Nation Films and is currently developing projects for film and television.  Burton received a star on Hollywood’s legendary Walk of Fame in 1990.  In 1997, his critically-acclaimed science fiction novel “Aftermath” was published.

This is the eighth year Wake Forest has collaborated with Winston-Salem State to present a series of events surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  The two schools have a joint planning committee and they alternate hosting the shared celebration.  Several other events marking the week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be held on the Wake Forest campus and are open to the public.

On Jan. 19, the 10th annual MLK Invitational Basketball Tournament, sponsored by Wake Forest Campus Recreation and the Office of Multicultural Affairs will begin at 1 p.m. in Reynolds Gymnasium.  Men’s and women’s teams from several North Carolina universities will compete.  The championship game begins at 8:15 p.m.  Admission is free.

The third annual Martin Luther King Jr. GospelFest will be held in Brendle Recital Hall at 4 p.m. Jan. 20.   The concert will feature internationally known contemporary Christian vocalist Martha Munizzi.  In 2006, Munizzi was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album.  She will be available for autographs and photos immediately following the concert.  Admission is $5, free to college students with IDs.  Children under 12 will be admitted free.

At 4 p.m. Jan. 22, “I’m Not My Brother’s Keeper:  Leadership and Civil Rights in Winston-Salem, North Carolina,” a documentary about the 1960 sit-in of Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State students at the downtown Woolworth’s, will be shown in Z. Smith Reynolds Library on the Wake Forest campus.  The director, Wake Forest Associate Professor of Communication Mary Dalton, will lead a discussion following the film screening.

For more information about these events, call Wake Forest’s Office of Multicultural Affairs at (336) 758-5864.  For information about the basketball tournament, call (336) 758-7178.

Press Contacts:

Cheryl Walker
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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