RESCHEDULED: SMCD Welcomes Dr. Vincent Harding, Professor and Civil Rights Pioneer, on Sunday, June 2


Dr. Vincent Harding

“The Shambhala Meditation Center of Denver is honored to host Dr. Vincent Harding– civil rights leader, teacher, scholar, engaged citizen, and seeker. He is especially noted for his decades of social justice work, as well as his close association with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Harding will present a talk titled “We the People– Making Peace at Home and Abroad: Remembering Ella Baker, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jan Willis.” The presentation begins at noon on Sunday, June 2.

About the Talk:

Dr. Harding currently serves as Professor Emeritus of Religion and Social Transformation at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. He remains a role model and a source of encouragement to those activists who seek social and racial justice. Dr. Harding conducts workshops and retreats on the connections between spirituality and social responsibility, and his talk will explore these themes as exemplified in the lives of three people:

Ella Baker

Ella Baker

Ella Baker

Ella Baker was a largely unsung hero of the civil rights Freedom Movement who inspired and guided emerging leaders. She was a driving force in creating the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 with along with several Southern black ministers and activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King.  King served as the group’s first president and Baker as the director. She mainly worked behind the scenes, while King assumed the role as spokesman. The SCLC played a vital role in organizing the civil rights movement.

Baker left the group in 1960, when she helped students organize the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at her alma mater, Shaw University. With Ella Baker’s guidance and encouragement, SNCC became one of the foremost advocates for human rights in the country.

Her influence was reflected in the nickname she acquired: “Fundi,” a Swahili word meaning a person who teaches a craft to the next generation. Baker continued to be a respected and influential leader in the fight for human and civil rights until her death on December 13, 1986, her 83rd birthday.

 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and iconic leader in the civil rights movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience.

A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, King led an unsuccessful struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia in 1962, and organized nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama that attracted national attention following television news coverage of the brutal police response. King also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. There, he established his reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history.

On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. In 1965, he and the SCLC helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches and the following year, he took the movement north to Chicago. In the final years of his life, King expanded his focus to include poverty and the Vietnam War. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities

King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986.

Dr. Jan Willis

Dr. Jan WIllis

Dr. Jan Willis

Dr. Jan Willis is Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University. One of the earliest American scholar-practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, Willis has published numerous essays and articles on Buddhist meditation, hagiography, women and Buddhism, and Buddhism and race.

Dr. Willis has studied with Tibetan Buddhists in India, Nepal, Switzerland and the U.S. for four decades, and has taught courses in Buddhism for 32 years. In December 2000, Time magazine named Willis one of six “spiritual innovators for the new millennium.” In 2003, she was a recipient of Wesleyan University’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching, and she was profiled in a 2005 Newsweek article about “Spirituality in America.” She serves on the Board of Trustees of Naropa University in Boulder, CO.


 More About Dr. Vincent Harding:

Dr. Vincent Harding is a native of New York City and holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Chicago. From 1961 to 1964, he and his late wife, Rosemarie Freeney Harding, worked in various capacities as full-time teachers, activists, and negotiators in the southern Freedom Movement. They were friends and co-workers with Martin Luther King, Jr., and many other movement leaders and participants. Dr. Harding occasionally drafted speeches for Martin Luther King, including King’s famous anti-Vietnam speech, “A Time to Break Silence” which King delivered on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City, exactly a year before he was assassinated.

In 1968, after several years as Chairperson of the History and Sociology Department at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Harding was asked by Coretta Scott King to help her develop the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center in Atlanta and he also helped to organize—and became first chairperson of—the Institute of the Black World in that city.

Over the years Dr. Harding and his family have been involved in various movements for peace and justice in this country and overseas. In 1981 he joined the faculty of the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, serving as Professor of Religion and Social Transformation until his retirement in 2004. During the early part of that period Harding also served as senior academic advisor to the PBS documentary television series Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years.

In 1997 Vincent and Rosemarie founded The Veterans of Hope Project, a center for the study of religion and movements for social change focused especially on gathering the filmed autobiographical accounts of women and men who have worked for decades in spirit-based movements for compassionate social change. Since Rosemarie’s death in 2004 the Project has been carried on by Harding, his two children, Rachel and Jonathan, other family members and other friends and supporters. The Project is based on the Iliff campus.

Learn more about The Veterans of Hope Project on their website.