Dr. King and the 99 percent

Convocation brings understanding of King’s work for the oppressed

January 18, 2012

Members of the Knox community filled Harbach Theatre on Monday morning to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The event focused on what King’s response would be to the current economic and political climate.

“Like a monstrous octopus, poverty projects its nagging prehensile tentacles in lands and villages all over the world,” Dean of the College Lawrence Breitborde said, quoting King. “The contradiction he talked about between developed countries and underdeveloped countries and the contradiction within the United States itself has a potential to divide us and prevent all of our societies from advancing.”

Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies Magali Roy-Fequiere led the event, which has been running for 11 years. The Knox College Choir brought a musical remembrance of King, starting the event with the spiritual “Hold On” and closing the celebration with “We Shall Overcome.”

President Teresa Amott and Breitborde gave a short welcome shaping the convocation topic towards King’s work against poverty and social injustice.

Associate Professor of History and Chair of American Studies Konrad Hamilton keynoted the event, talking about King’s work with poverty and grassroots activism.

“King and those who marched with him believed that true change does not come from politicians at the top but from the pressure generated through citizen activism at the grass roots,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton noted the similarities between King’s work and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“Dr. King gave us one of our most important lessons in American political behavior, not only by making speeches in front of cheering crowds, but by nonviolently occupying the streets of America until the powerful responded,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton urged the audience to be an active participant in politics at the grassroots level, finishing his speech on a similar tone.

“Our duties as citizens do not end at the ballot box; our duties begin there,” Hamilton said. “The lesson is clear. Democracy doesn’t begin at the top, it begins at the bottom.”

The event was rounded out by poems read by the Chair of the Black Studies Department Fred Hord and senior Monica Prince.

“The revolution is supposed to be a moment in time where the oppressed rise up against the oppressors. Where flags are not burned in the streets of any country. Where rich actually means broke because she gave all her money to charity,” Prince said, reading from her poem “21st Century Revolution.”

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