MARQUETTE, Mich. – Entertainment and thought-provoking presentations will highlight the Uniting Neighbors in the Experience of Diversity (UNITED) Conference Sept. 12-16 at Northern Michigan University. The public is invited. All but two events are free of charge, as indicated. For a full and updated schedule, visit www.nmu.edu/united. Highlighted activities, which will be held in the Great Lakes Rooms of the University Center unless otherwise noted, are as follows: Two-time Native American Music Awards winner Keith Secola and members of the Wild Band of Indians will open the conference with a concert at 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12. They performed during the opening ceremonies at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Secola is a master guitarist and Native flute player, singer, songwriter, composer and producer. Featured speakers will discuss a wide range of topics. Earl Smith, an expert on African-Americans in sports and the sociology of interracial marriage, will address “Unity Through Sport: The Challenge of the 21st Century” at 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 13. At 7 that evening, NMU’s visiting scholar from China, Jian Sha, will give a presentation in the DeVos Art Museum about the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province. The museum will display several pieces of art by surviving children and host a reception following Sha’s talk. Frank Chong of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education will speak about matching educational programs with student needs at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14. Step Afrika will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, in Forest Roberts Theatre. The professional company based in Washington, D.C., celebrates stepping, an art form born at African American fraternities and based in African traditions. Admission is $2 for students and $5 for the general public. NMU student organization First Aid Productions will present musician, songwriter, scholar and activist Derrick Ashong, or DNA, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15. He won Billboard magazine’s 2007 World Songwriting Competition. As host of “The Derrick Ashong Experience” on SIRIUS XM's Oprah Radio, the Ghana, West Africa native and Harvard graduate mashes up politics, pop culture, social media, music, the arts and travel in order to create bridges of understanding. “Supafunkrock” jazz legend Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, in Kaufman Auditorium. The concert closes UNITED and opens the 2010-11 International Performing Arts Series. Advance tickets are $11 for students, $19 for NMU faculty/staff and seniors 60 and older and $24 for the general public. They are available at all NMU EZ Ticket outlets or online at www.nmu.edu/tickets.