Public Enemy co-founder among headliners for ‘Fight the Power’ event honoring MLK
Maryum Ali, daughter Muhammad Ali, and historian Khalid el-Hakim will also speak at MSU Denver’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Breakfast on Jan. 12.
The phrase “Fight the Power” has become an indelible part of American culture. While the sentiment has carried through cultural and social-justice movements across generations, the words became ingrained in the country’s collective consciousness with the 1989 release of hip-hop group Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”
A social-justice anthem, the song addressed the institutionalized racism of the era and continues to resonate today, making the song’s title a fitting theme for the 2024 MLK Peace Breakfast and Awards hosted by Metropolitan State University of Denver.
On Jan. 12, MSU Denver will welcome local and national Black leaders – including Public Enemy co-founder Professor Griff – for a celebration of the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Other keynote speakers include Maryum “May May” Ali, daughter of the late boxing legend Muhammad Ali, and educator and historian Khalid el-Hakim, who documents and preserves Black History through a mobile museum that will be on campus during the event.
Speakers will be leading a discussion on challenging and pushing back against inequitable systems of power and establishment thinking, organizers said. It’s a conversation the University has been fostering since its inception as a public open-access university in 1965 and, more directly, since the founding of the MLK Peace Breakfast and Awards in 1992.
“‘Fight the Power’ resonates with King’s legacy of challenging injustice, and this year’s inspiring speakers and awardees embody the relentless pursuit of social justice, racial and economic equity and collective empowerment that King championed,” said Michael Benitez, Ph.D., vice president for Diversity and Inclusion at MSU Denver. “Their collective experiences and insights offer a dynamic continuation of King’s dream, inspiring us to activate change in our communities and beyond.”
Here’s more on this year’s speakers and the community members who will be receiving the MSU Denver’s 2024 Peace Award recognizing work that embodies King’s values:
Maryum “May May” Ali
A public speaker, social worker and author, and the eldest of late boxer and activist Muhammad Ali’s nine children, Ali explored comedy and released a rap album before earning a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She has spent more than 15 years in juvenile-delinquency prevention and youth development, working in Los Angeles-based gang-reduction initiatives and advocating for jail reforms.
Khalid el-Hakim, Ph.D.
As an educator and historian, el-Hakim documents and preserves Black history through his Black History 101 Mobile Museum. The traveling museum provides critical context for the Black experience through more than 7,000 Black-memorabilia artifacts, ranging from the era of the transatlantic slave trade to modern hip-hop culture. The museum will be available to event attendees, and el-Hakim will also serve as the conversation moderator.
Professor Griff — a multitalented cultural analyst, educator, writer, producer and musician — has a deeply personal connection to the words “Fight the Power.” Griff is known for his work as a co-founder of Public Enemy. He’s also a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and an influential lecturer recognized for his impactful discourse on the music industry and social responsibility within hip-hop culture.
The event will also recognize three outstanding community leaders who are living King’s vision and continuing his legacy. Winners of the 2024 Peace Award embody King’s values of peace, justice, diversity, equality and social change.
- John Bailey, community leader and force behind Colorado Black Round Table and Black Economic Opportunities Council as well as a volunteer with many organizations that support the Black community.
- Amber Mozet, an MSU Denver graduate and former staff member who initiated several programs on campus. She now serves on the University’s Alumni Board and founded the Black Alumni Group.
- Alfonzo Porter, an MSU Denver alumnus and former faculty member who oversaw the student news organization Met Media and served as editor-in-chief of the Denver Urban Spectrum until his death in March. Porter had also served on the MLK Peace Breakfast Committee and will be recognized posthumously.