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Conference Honors Mel King's Quarter Century at Institute

By Leslie Martin

Over 200 students, professors, and community leaders attended a conference from Nov. 10-12 marking Melvin H. King's 25th year at the Institute as director of the Community Fellows Program.

King is an adjunct professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

The conference, entitled "Processes of Change: In Nature, Technology, and Society," was designed to "examine the social consequences of the technological revolution," according to Professor of Biology Jonathan A. King, who helped organize the event.

In addition to honoring Melvin King, the conference addressed a number of issues, including the impact of technological change on the environment, federal cutbacks in education, and the fight against poverty, said Jonathan King.

"Who is not affected by the booming high-tech industry, and the layoffs and re-engineering that has followed? Who here is not targeted by the menacing cutbacks in higher education?" asked King.

The conference attempted to assess these changes and determine how to ensure they will have a positive societal impact, King said.

The forum brought together community leaders and scholars --for interaction between those who experienced social change and those who attempt to shape social change. -- introducing today's generation of active students to the leaders of past social struggles.

King's work acknowledged

The title of the conference refers to Melvin King's book, Chain of Change: Struggles for Black Community Development.

King has been "a leader in the effort to raise the standard of living of people in Cambridge and Boston," said Jonathan King.

Melvin King has been a state representative, a Boston mayoral candidate, and a candidate for U.S. Congress. Out of his 1983 Boston mayoral campaign grew the Rainbow Coalition, after which Jesse Jackson modeled the National Rainbow Coalition.

Because of the "recognition that we need a complementary, holistic approach to deal with the complex issues of today," the coalition reached out to women, persons of color, the elderly, the homeless or the unemployed.

"Oppression cannot be dealt with in isolation." said Melvin King.

Community program in 25th year

Twenty five years ago Melvin King began the Community Fellows Program, an organization that brings community leaders to MIT for "reflection, research and the reorganization of a particular program that deals with an issue in community development," said Jonathan King.

The program makes academic resources available to leaders from public-sponsored programs and community organizations, King said.

Participants in the Community Fellows Program take courses and research a particular problem or issue, working to acquire skills they can transfer to others back in their community, King said.

The "Processes of Change" conference is the first of a series, King said.

Funneling the enthusiasm generated by the conference, organizers have decided to publish the proceedings and have formed an editorial board for a new journal that will deal with some of the issues the talks raised, King said.