Say Good Evening!
A highlight of yesterday's MLK Jr. Legacy Day on campus was the evening event challenging us to think about: “Economic Disparity And Race: A Necessary Redress.”
Prior to Naomi Tutu's keynote address, winners of the MLK Jr. Essay and Speech contest presented their work. 1st place went to Sarah English, '08, whose essay “A is for Acceptance” stressed stopping the 400+-year bleeding through acknowledgement, awareness, and education so that forthcoming generations will not follow in ignorance and hate.
Asad Rahim, '07, earned 2nd place with his speech “From Kizzie and Toby to Oprah and Barack: Well, I'll be damned – Racism is Over!” He talked about the irrational feelings of guilt left over from previous generations of slaveholders. Rather, he says, we must redirect legitimate guilt over what we continue to see into action that counteracts the devastating effects of slavery that remains today.
Following these amazing and provocative presentations, we were introduced to Naomi Tutu who grew up during South Africa's Apartheid while her father's vocal opposition and influence also grew. Her first words, a warm “Good Evening” had to be repeated after she reprimanded us for not saying it back to her as is the custom in her native land!
Her poignant message to us was to treat each other as no less than human. We are equally human; racial, social, or economic status does not determine our 'level' of human-ness. Her examples of economic disparity in the U.S. were many: compare families with 6 cars vs. those living in cars; compare attitudes of those empowered to help with recovery of New Orleans' wealthy vs. its poor following Hurricane Katrina.
She believes this country cannot realize Martin Luther King's dream until we see everyone wholly, fully human.
Tutu is proud to say that political freedom is established in South Africa. She is quick to point out, however, that true success will only come with economic freedom. Clearly, it is a message she wants us to consider for this country and for the world.
The near-capacity audience of students, faculty, staff, and folks from the area enjoyed an evening of education, inspiration, and challenge.