I was not quite sure what to expect when I entered the room in Whitehall on Thursday evening, and took my seat. The first few minutes of each speaker’s agenda was commonly about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the progression of the evening followed in these footsteps. After all of the introductions had been made, a spiritual had been sung by UK’s finest (Reggie), and Dr. Cone took the podium, the lecture was finally ready to commence. At first, I was concerned that Dr. Cone’s microphone wasn’t working properly and I would be struggling to hear his soft-spoken voice for the duration of the talk…but boy was I wrong. It was not more than five minutes into his ‘sermon’, and I was sure that everyone in attendance (and probably everyone in the classroom building) could clearly understand the words coming out of Dr. Cone’s mouth.
The theme of the evening was recognizing Dr. King as more than just an activist, but as a influential leader and role model in the world of academia and scholarship as well. Dr. Cone repetitively painted a picture of a Martin Luther King Jr. that fell outside of the stereotypical imagery of him that our society often thinks of. Others had described King as a ‘dangerous negro’, and Cone tried to portray him in the same light. By demonstrating that he was a man who was committed to actively seeking justice in the world, it was evident that King was much more than a man who gave a few inspiring speeches over the course of his lifetime. The exploitation of his fame by American politicians and leaders was emphasized by Dr. Cone when he said something along the lines of, “Politicians were interested in searching for ways to associate with King, but not associate with his struggle against social injustice.” The ‘injustice’ that Cone was referring to, was specifically the oppression of the poor, black communities in American society.
As I was sitting in my seat, I couldn’t help but compare it to a lecture that I had attended the night before with special guest speaker, Ahmed Kathrada. For those of you who are not familiar with this extraordinary individual, he was an influential activist in South Africa during the anti-apartheid movement. Because of his voiced opinions about racial segregation, he was imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela for over 25 years. I have immense respect for this man, and the humility he exudes whilst speaking about such a personal act of sacrifice is unmatched. The theme of Mr. Kathrada’s campaign can be summed up quite simply. Non-racialism. He continuously repeated on Wednesday night that he was against the supremacy of any race, including his own. He was against the dominance of whites, against the dominance of blacks, and against the dominance of the Indian race in South Africa. Ultimately, he wished to see each ethnicity working side by side for greater good that led to an end of political and social oppression in his segregated country.
Now I realize that after only 45 minutes of lecture by Dr. Cone, I by no means have deep insight of his personal regards towards racialism in America. But what I can deduct from his speech about Dr. Martin Luther King, it seemed as though Dr. Cone was more interested in the progression of the black race in society rather than emphasizing the need for a non-racial attitude amongst the American population. I am neither denying nor proposing that the social injustice done to the African American individuals over the course of American history was by any means acceptable. I am simply proposing that in order to progress as a whole society (one that is not defined by race), we need not place emphasis on compensation or the advancement of one race over another as Mr. Kathrada so humbly discussed.
Do I think there are still issues of racial persecution in America? Yes. Do I think there is still social injustice amongst the black race? Yes. However, I think the most beneficial way of progressing towards a non-racial society can be best reflected in this interview with Morgan Freeman.