MLK keynote speaker stresses the importance of critical thinking

Erica Carter

Bertice Berry, a former sociology professor at Kent State, served as the keynote speaker for the 16th annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

Award-winning entertainer, lecturer, comedian and author are just a few of the titles Berry holds. In her speech, she spoke of integrity, accountability and purpose. Her primary focus was to emphasize the value of critical thinking and MLK as a thinker.

“He was one of the greatest thinkers there is,” she said. “Nothing pains people more than having to think.”

The MLK celebration, hosted by the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, includes a week of events dedicated to MLK which range from community service to motivational luncheons. The keynote speaker always closes the celebration.

Berry went on to explain how thinking will save everyone and that “hard, solid thinking” is necessary. She challenged students to be critical thinkers, considering that all social movements began on college campuses.

“Diversity is critical thinking,” she said. “The more you experience, the more you become. The more diverse the environment, the better the products that come from it.”

Berry filled the room with laughter and tears as she talked about her struggles at Kent State and how it modeled her into the woman she is now. She will always have love for the university for being her home and a place where she realized her purpose in life.

Ile-Ife Okantah, a senior journalism major and ambassador for the office of Academic Diversity Outreach, served as the mistress of ceremonies at the celebration and was astounded by Berry’s words.

“I love hearing the stories of other successful women because it makes me hopeful for my own future and it encourages me to keep pushing,” Okantah said. “When I spoke to Dr. Berry at the luncheon, she told me to always remember my greatness and never doubt myself. I will always hold that moment close to my heart.”

Berry challenged everyone to think critically about their future and legacy. She asked the audience to ask themselves everyday, “Why me, why here, why now?”

“People don’t want to deal with Dr. King the thinker because it’s too hard,” she said. “But those thoughts are what got this nation to where it is now.”

Erica Carter is the diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected].