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Mount Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. by Questioning "Where Do We Go from Here?"

MLK group feature

Pictured with keynote speaker Richard Lucas III (third from left) are Christian Minister Dwayne Brown, Vice President for Student Life Bernard Franklin, President Timothy E. Trainor, Center for Student Diversity Assistant Director Stephanie Durr, Vice President for Equity and Success Paula Whetsel-Ribeau, and student Michael Gunn, C'21.

The Center for Student Diversity at Mount St. Mary’s University hosted A Dream Deferred, a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. on what would have been his 90th birthday. “We haven’t yet achieved Dr. King’s bold vision for our country, but that doesn’t mean that we should stop,” said President Timothy E. Trainor, Ph.D., in opening remarks. “We must believe that together we can achieve the vision of equality and justice for all in the United States.”

richard-lucas-iii.jpgKeynote speaker Richard Lucas III, the Magee Fellow at Yale University’s Dwight Hall Center for Social Justice, focused on the “simple but powerful” question in the title of King’s final book: Where do we go from here? This question is still relevant today, Lucas shared. “Dr. King touched on the crossroads of advancement and anger, of progress and pain,” Lucas said. “Today we are in a similar period of profound accomplishment and opposition. We haven't reached the promised land of equality and justice for all Americans.”

Lucas provided several rapid-fire examples of the highs and lows of the current crossroads—the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture versus the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through court decisions as well as the seating of the most diverse Congress in 2019 versus an Iowa congressman defending white supremacy last week.

Lucas’s answer to King’s question is that a combination of chaos and community are needed to achieve equality.  “In our current social and political climate, we see the value of not just community but also chaos,” Lucas said. By resisting and fighting against oppression, chaos is created that leads to change, he articulated. “Strategically organized chaos is what is needed in 2019 to create a new America.”

Chaos and community are not oppositional terms, Lucas said. “Chaos is the great canvas to creation, not to destroy. We must organize, fight and struggle to resist the new normal of our society in the everydayness of oppression. We must construct chaos for a new world and new justice system.”

Lucas, who is in pursuit of his Master’s degree at Yale, is also the William Sloane Coffin Fellow, a full scholarship award given to one student in every incoming class who demonstrates Coffin's prophetic leadership, his passion for social justice, and his critical theological interpretation of the social and political scene. He earned his undergraduate degree at Bowie State University.

Stephanie Durr, assistant director of the Center for Student Diversity, summarized the evening’s discussion by reading the Langston Hughes poem Harlem:

What happens to a dream deferred?

       Does it dry up

      like a raisin in the sun?

      Or fester like a sore—

      And then run?

      Does it stink like rotten meat?

      Or crust and sugar over—

      like a syrupy sweet?

       Maybe it just sags

      like a heavy load.

       Or does it explode?