In a discussion wrought with argument, activists spoke about the role of entertainers and students in social justice movements at the 9th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast Thursday.
The discussion included Dick Gregory, comedian and civil rights activist, who marched with King and has remained politically active throughout his life. Co-founder of the Black Lives Movement Alicia Garza was supposed to speak at the event, but cancelled Wednesday night. In her place, actress and comedian Amanda Seales joined the discussion.
“Our hope is to honor King and make his legacy relevant for the university and its students, faculty and staff and its administration,” said Jalyn Golden, chair of the MSC Carter G. Woodson Black Awareness Committee, the organization that hosted the event.
Before the discussion began, University President Michael Young took the stage.
“This is — in my judgement — an extremely important event on this campus,” Young said.
Young quoted the Rev. Jesse Jackson, stating that there’s only an opportunity gap in the United States, not a talent gap. This remained one of the themes throughout the breakfast.
“I believe it is our obligation to eliminate that gap, to celebrate as we do today with the great legacy of Dr. King,” Young said. “To celebrate, to commemorate his courage, his values, what he represented, what he stood for — but at the same time renew our commitment to furthering that cause,” Young said. “As Aggies we create an environment where everyone is welcome, everyone has an opportunity to realize their best potential.”
After Young’s speech, WBAC members led the audience in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the song dubbed “The Negro National Anthem” by the NAACP.
The guests took the stage where they passionately discussed topics such as reverse racism, Rosa Parks and Dr. King’s vision and courage during the civil rights movement.
“King was the most hated man on the planet,” Gregory said. “As we sit here now, he’s one of the most beloved people on the planet.”
One of the arguments that dominated the discussion was about entertainers not becoming involved enough in civil rights activism.
“There’s people in this room that have done more for the humanities worldwide, than 98 percent of your athletes and entertainers put together,” Gregory said. “Never before, in the history of this planet have we thought about athletes or entertainers when we’re talking about liberation.”
Seales said she disagreed, highlighting the differences between time periods and the connectedness people experience today.
“That’s what tradition does — it changes,” Seales said. “I personally and professionally make it my responsibility in all of my work to send some social message, because I know people are watching.”
Craig Hogg, general committee member, said this year’s breakfast exceeded his expectations.
“Last year’s MLK Breakfast was great, but I feel like the discussion, in my opinion, was better,” Hogg said. “The discussions were very, very interesting, grabbed everyone’s attention. I think everyone learned a lot.”