King’s spirit lives on through celebration

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A dance performance called Torn Asunder was on stage at the celebration yesterday.

CAITLIN PRARAT | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Prester Pickett evoked the spirit of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the audience at yesterday’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

The President and CEO of Pickett-Line Productions gave a rendition of King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, to which the audience responded with applause and a chorus of “amens.”

“But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars,” said Pickett, quoting King. “And I see God working in this period of the 20th century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding – something is happening in our world.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and BlackPressUSA.com, was yesterday’s keynote speaker, and said this particular speech of King’s was his favorite.

King was more than just his “dream,” Curry said. In fact, because of all he went through in life, he said his life was probably more of a nightmare.

Steve Michael, vice provost for diversity, said every year at this time people ask him, “Why celebrate a man who has been dead longer than many of our students have been alive?”

The answer he gave was “because of King’s message.”

“We as the committee of the enlightened gathered here today to remind ourselves of the urgency of the message,” Michael said.

Michael explained Michael Eric Dyson, renowned author and scholar, who was originally scheduled to give the keynote address, was unable to appear because of illness. He said they were lucky to find a speaker of “equal caliber” at such short notice.

Curry said he remembers living through the civil rights movement.

“I remember having to go to a colored water fountain,” he said. “I remember having to sit on the back of the bus when I wanted so much to sit behind the driver.”

And because King’s dream is yet to be complete, Curry spoke of what people of today can do to continue his message.

“I hope none of you are looking for another Martin Luther King Jr.,” he said. “You are the leader you’ve been looking for to lead you.”

One of King’s lessons Curry said people of the 21st century can apply today is taking part in politics by exercising the right to vote.

“Follow the politics of hope,” he said. “Make your voice heard. To do anything less would be betraying the legacy of Dr. King.”

He said he finds it sad that some people take their privilege to vote for granted, while people years ago were killed because they wanted to stand up to vote.

Another way for people to carry on King’s lessons, Curry said, is by supporting affirmative action and seeing it as an opportunity for qualified applicants to a job or university.

To continue King’s leadership and legacy, Curry emphasized the importance of breaking down stereotypes and not allowing others to define who you are.

“King defined himself,” he said. “You have to define who you are and not let someone else define you and put a label on who you are.”

Ultimately, he said people have a choice to be a thermometer or a thermostat.

“A thermometer measures the temperature, and a thermostat sets it,” he said. “What are you going to be?”

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Jessica Cole at [email protected]. and minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].