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  February 5, 2001

NAACP Head to Open Black History Month
NOTE: This event was cancelled due to severe winter weather.

Kweisi Mfume, president and chief executive officer of the NAACP, will speak at UConn's Black History Month opening ceremony today, Feb. 5. The event, sponsored by the African American Cultural Center, will be held at 5 p.m. in the Rome Commons Ballroom, South Campus, and will be followed by a reception.

A community activist, organizer and radio talk show host, Mfume is a former member of the Baltimore City Council. As a council member, he worked for improved community safety, diversified city government, enhanced minority business development, and divestment of city funds from the apartheid government in South Africa.

In 1986, he was elected to the U.S. Congress, representing Maryland's 7th Congressional District. During his 10 years in Congress, Mfume advocated landmark minority business and civil rights legislation and successfully co-sponsored the Americans with Disabilities Act. He authorized the minority contracting and employment amendments to the financial institutions Reform and Recovery Act, and strengthened the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. He also co-authored the Civil Rights Act of 1991 and amended it to apply the act to U.S. citizens working for companies abroad.

Mfume assumed the presidency of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, in February 1996. Since then he has announced an agenda that focuses on civil rights, political empowerment, educational excellence, economics development and youth outreach and has worked with NAACP volunteers across the country to help usher in a new generation of civil rights leaders across the country.

Under Mfume's leadership, some of the NAACP's recent efforts have included a call for television networks to increase diversity, and the filing of a federal lawsuit that seeks court-ordered changes to prevent future voting irregularities in Florida.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Mfume graduated magna cum laude from Morgan State University, where he now serves on the Board of Regents. He also earned a master's degree in liberal arts from Johns Hopkins University.

He has been a member of the Board of Visitors for the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and the advisory board of the Schomburg Commission for the Preservation of Black Culture. He is also a member of the senior advisory committee of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, the Meyerhoff National Advisory Board of the University of Maryland, and the board of trustees of the Enterprise Foundation.

In addition to Mfume's speech, the ceremony on Monday will include performances by the Voices of Freedom Gospel Choir and the UConn String Quartet.

Highlights of Black History Month also include:

  • A tribute to "The Greatest" Muhammad Ali at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 7, in the Student Union Ballroom. Actor Geoffrey Ewing will present a lecture/performance drama depicting Ali and his loyalty, discipline and sense of community values.

  • An Evening with Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals on Friday, Feb. 9, at 8 p.m. at Jorgensen Auditorium. Harper's megahit "Steal My Kisses" rocketed to the top of the charts last year, and his four albums, including the latest, Burn to Shine, have sold more than two million copies worldwide. Harper's style has no regard for musical boundaries and includes acoustic folk-rock, Delta blues, jazz and reggae, as well as Jimi Hendrix-style hard rock.

  • African American Alumni Reunion, beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10. Details are available from the Alumni Association, (860) 486-2240.

  • A visit with Kelly Hill, who co-produced the film Missing in Action, An American Journal of Broken

    Dreams and Unpaid Debt. The film is a thought-provoking examination of fatherlessness. Hill's lecture will take place at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

  • The Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant will speak at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 21. Pastor of the Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore, he has served as the director of the youth and college division of the NAACP and is the founder of the "Stop the Violence/Share the Love" program.

  • A performance of Rome & Jewels by Rennie Harris Puremovement, at 8 p.m. in Jorgensen Auditorium on Feb. 28. Inspired by West Side Story, this dance work is based on the classic Shakespearean tale of doomed love, but is told through the eyes of a hip hop poet.

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