It’s been so long since I’ve heard fearless passion describe blatant racial inequality between blacks and whites. Dr. Cone’s honesty was inspiring even when answering a question said, “I’m not racist, I just don’t like you.” He was referring to white people, perhaps he said that just to solidify his explanation to the student. But it didn’t matter to me, I’m on his side regardless. The freedom he has doesn’t make him popular among everyone, but Dr. Cone is most definitely in my cool book.
Arnold Farr, the first endowed scholar for the MLK, Jr. Center, is a beloved professor of philosophy. I particularly liked the way he described King’s philosophic background and his affinity for Hegel and his dialectical method. Hegel had a lot to say about slavery.
It was an emotional journey for me listening to what King was working on at the time of his death, and the speech he gave the night before he was assassinated. He was planning a march for poverty, a march for the poor of any race. That’s what I remember about King. He pursued justice the way Abraham Heschel teaches about the requirement for justice. Justice is the way man interacts with God. This is what I see in King. Dr. Cone quoted Abraham Heschel, “Whole future of America will depend on the impact and influence of Dr. Martin Luther King.” King’s influence was so diverse. The night King was assassinated, Robert Kennedy made the announcement in Indianapolis, Indiana. It would be the only U.S. city that didn’t endure race riots that night.
Dr. Cone focused on a different aspect of King’s nature, and listening to him empowered me because they both speak to the human condition of the oppressed, the dehumanized, demoralized, and exploited. There are many ways we endure these experiences commonly without sharing the same oppressor. I’m eluding to oppression of poverty, civil rights, sex discrimination, religious intolerance, physical abuse, disease and addiction. Many of us can identify with oppression when we ourselves realize our own personal oppressor that weighs down on our own human condition. Those were not the exact words I heard at the whole presentation with Dr. Farr and Dr. Cone, but that was the message that I received.
So much happened in those two hours at White Hall. It began with a MLK, Jr., slide show, and then we inspired by own winner of the Met Opera regional try-outs, Reggie. If you were there, you’ll know why there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. African-American Sprituals have long been inspirational cross-culturally. Do you know the significance of the name White Hall? White Hall is an historic residence just south of Lexington that belonged to emancipationist, Cassius Clay. Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Clay, named for the owner of White Hall because of the appreciation his family felt for Clay freeing Ali’s grandfather from slavery.
The AME preacher challenged us to put into practice a mode of living that will help someone else. This followed along the lines of the hymn Reggie sang. And in the end, closed with one poignant question, “What’s your theos when it comes to the challenge of the day?” In case we haven’t been listening in class, here’s a definition for theodicy in Wikipedia.