Panel, speaker revisit King’s beliefs and legacy

Bryan Wroten

Antonio Preston leads the Firestone Gospel Choir during the 4th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration yesterday in the Student Center ballroom. The choir engaged the audience with music, singing and clapping. Founded in 2001, the goal of the choir is

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

The Civil Rights Movement may have ended decades ago, but the struggle for equality isn’t over.

A panel discussion and speaker Manning Marable, Columbia University professor of public affairs, history and African-American studies, addressed Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

The panel comprised community leaders Fannie Brown, executive director of Coming Together Akron and Coming Together USA; David England, dean of the College and Graduate School of Education; Stanley Miller, executive director of the NAACP Cleveland Branch; Linda Omobien, member of the Akron Public Schools Board of Education; Mark Penn, senior vice president of academic affairs and associate dean of North Eastern Ohio University’s College of Medicine; and the Rev. Paul Hopson Sadler Jr., senior pastor of Mt. Zion Congregational Church UCC in Cleveland.

President Carol Cartwright moderated the panel, asking questions formed by the Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force. The first question asked was what the legacy of King means to them personally.

“If the dreamer dies, does the dream die with him?” Miller asked.

Miller said he never used to get involved in activism. That changed when, in 1999, the Ku Klux Klan came to Cleveland. He said the city leaders told the people to ignore them. Miller said he couldn’t.

“In that march (against the KKK), I had the opportunity to relive what happened in the ’50s and ’60s,” he said.

In response to whether progress in equality has been even, Brown said it is up to the individual to get involved and fix inequalities. To make progress, she said people must be a part of the changing society.

“You can’t sit back and expect all the solutions to come and then step up for the reward,” she said.

Marable’s speech, “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dream Deferred,” focused on the public life of King and his own relationship with King. As a 17-year-old journalist working for his local paper, Marable was the first at Ebenezer Church to cover King’s funeral.

Reciting the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, Marable asked what happens to a dream deferred several times throughout his speech. He asked why America is called a democracy when so many felons who pay taxes cannot vote.

Marable said civil rights are still in danger. There isn’t a civil right that former Attorney General John Ashcroft met that he liked, he said. The present attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, is no better, he said. He pointed out that Gonzales is Latino, a minority.

He said King struggled for a society in which men and women could support their families and have stable lives.

He finished by asking the young people in the audience to find their moral assignments and follow them.

In response, the audience reciprocated Marable with a standing ovation.

Contact minority affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].