Talks / Workshops

2016–17 Martin Luther King, Jr. Series keynote address: Emory Douglas

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Providence, RI, United States
20 Jan 2017

2016–17 Martin Luther King, Jr. Series keynote address: Emory Douglas

Emory Douglas. Photo: Jos Wheeler.

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) announces that Emory Douglas will deliver this year’s keynote address for its annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Series (MLK Series). The lecture honors the vast contributions Dr. King made toward creating a more just and democratic society and acknowledges an individual whose legacy of service and commitment to justice has made an indelible difference.

Douglas will speak on Friday, January 20, 2017 at 7pm in the RISD Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public, with ticket information at The event will also be available for viewing via

Held annually, RISD’s MLK Series includes programs, events and workshops designed to provide RISD and local communities with meaningful moments of service, reflection, self-development, inspiration and celebration. In addition to the keynote, the 2016-17 MLK Series at RISD includes:
–a public celebration dinner and concert on January 14
–a day of service at Mt. Hope Learning Center & MLK Elementary School and Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island in Providence on January 16
–-ISMS: Exploring the Intersectionality of Identity, a student created and curated exhibition, open January 13 throughout campus, led by RISD Global Initiative
–a public critique of the identity-based work in -ISMS on January 19, including Douglas and RISD faculty on the panel

The keynote address serves as the centerpiece of the MLK Series, and as with previous keynote speakers Danny Glover, Marian Wright Edelman, Harry Belafonte, Angela Davis, Andrew Young, Dr. Bernard Lafayette and Bakari Kitwana, RISD selected Douglas because he embodies Kingian values and represents the importance of creative endeavor in advancing democracy and equity.

An artist, educator and human rights activist, Douglas served as the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party from 1967–80. Best known for his political drawings and cartoons in the Black Panther Newspaper, he articulated the injustices experienced by African Americans living in the inner city, the growing militancy and organization among urban black youth in the face of police violence and the need for community-based social programs.

His use of rich colors, dark edging and photos of everyday black people to make collages created an authentic style that expressed the ideological platform of the Black Panthers and the heightened community consciousness of Black Power as a political concept. The book Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas presents a collection of his work. Douglas also worked as a layout artist and graphic designer for the San Francisco-based Sun Reporter Publishing Company for 21 years before retiring in 2005. Still based in San Francisco, he continues to work with many community-based organizations and dedicates his artwork to issues of social justice and health.

“At a time when so many are trying to make sense of the divisiveness and cultural complexity that defines our world, Emory Douglas demonstrates how art can be a platform for confronting injustice, creating change, and conveying the defining values of a movement,” notes RISD President Rosanne Somerson. “This resonates for us at RISD, and honors our core mission. We are delighted to welcome Mr. Douglas to Providence.”

“We are most enthusiastic about Mr. Douglas’ visit to the RISD campus. He continues to be a pioneer in leveraging creative expression to affirm the dignity of marginalized peoples while bringing acute attention to issues of injustice. Emory Douglas’ artwork, vision, and legacy are as relevant today as they were during his time with the movements of the 1960s and 70s,” notes Tony Johnson, dean of Student Affairs and chair of the 2017 RISD MLK Committee. “Our community looks forward to acknowledging Mr. Douglas’ contributions to art and society.”

MLK Series programming is not limited to January—in October 2016, Diversity Fellows Reya Sehgal and Marc Boucai led sessions for the community on cultural appropriation, aesthetics and identity-based art practices and engagement with local communities.

All programming details can be found at:


Friday, January 20, 2017, 7pm

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
RISD Auditorium
17 Canal Walk
Providence, RI


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