MLK speaker: Continue King’s legacy with selflessness, not selfies
Ed Gordon implores students to put action behind the dream
KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan 16, 2018) — Deshawn Jamison is still acclimating to campus life after just his first week as a Kennesaw State student, but he wasn’t going to miss the University’s annual ceremony to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jamison, who transferred to KSU this semester, said he became interested at a young age in King’s civil rights leadership through non-violence and civil disobedience. Jamison grew up in Hinesville, Ga., and was inspired by visiting the nearby Dorchester Academy, an African-American historic site that hosted King’s planning meetings for his 1963 march on Birmingham.
“Growing up, there really weren’t a lot of positive male influences present, so I learned a lot about Dr. King,” said Jamison, a political science major. “Fortunately, Dr. King’s example was always present, and I was able to model my life after his teachings and his way of doing things.”
Jamison and everyone else attending Sunday’s ceremony at the Bailey Performance Center was issued a challenge by guest speaker Ed Gordon. Gordon, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, explained that advancing the equal-rights progress made by King and others will be possible only by putting action behind that dream.
“We have forgotten that Dr. King was far more than a dreamer. King came from the generation of doers,” Gordon said. “We can’t be silent. We can’t be in a corner just complaining and shaking our heads. If we do that, we do a disservice to Dr. King.”
Gordon lamented that he “hears a lot of platitudes and sees a lot of press conferences” regarding civil rights nowadays, but he doesn’t see the same organization and action that caused change in the 1960s. To make a real difference, he said, people must do more than share a social media post about a civil or human rights issue that’s in the headlines.
“You snap a picture of yourself in an ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirt at a rally that you just went to because everybody else went, and you put it on Facebook. If you get a bunch of ‘likes,’ you think you’ve made a change in society — and you haven’t,” Gordon said. “I believe that, if King and that generation had Instagram back then, they would’ve been posting on Instagram. But they had a plan. They had a movement.”
One basic step Gordon mentioned more than once is to exercise the right to vote. He urged Americans, particularly African-Americans, to understand the difference they can make in an election simply by getting out and voting.
“People who will complain and who will salute Dr. King or put their fist up when they see Nelson Mandela are those same people who choose not to vote,” Gordon said. “There’s an irony there because both of those men died, generations bled, for your right to cast that vote. And then we don’t.”
Gordon concluded by telling the attendees to ask themselves, “Are we ready for change? And what is my role in it?” That message resonated with Kennesaw State senior Lucas Frink, a professional sales major from Statesboro, Ga.
“I firmly believe it’s not what you say, but the action behind whatever you do, that has great impact,” Frink said. “I’m here to gain a better understanding, a different perspective, and just move forward so I myself can prosper as well as possibly offer a different ideology to somebody else.”
The program also included musical selections from the KSU Gospel Choir and remarks by Brandon Jackson and Nathalia Jaramillo, the co-chairs of Kennesaw State’s MLK Committee. Jaramillo, KSU’s deputy chief diversity officer and a professor of interdisciplinary studies, encouraged thoughtful discussion and debate of the issues raised in King’s 1967 book that inspired this year’s MLK Week theme, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”
“The issues that Dr. King contemplated in his last book — notions of power, political representation, economic justice, materialism, militarism, peace, love and freedom — are so relevant today,” Jaramillo said. “We hope that our celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. will provide you with the space to engage with many different perspectives, and to consider the powerful insights that he left us with.”
Kennesaw State’s observance of MLK Week continues through Thursday. For the full calendar of events, click here.
– Paul Floeckher
Photos by Lauren Kress
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 35,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university's vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. A Carnegie-designated doctoral institution, it is one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.