“Pursuing the Dream” was the theme of the 27th annual Martin Luther King Breakfast Celebration held Monday morning at Ohio Wesleyan University’s Hamilton-Williams Campus Center.
Korie L. Edwards, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology at The Ohio State University and author, gave the keynote message.
Edwards mentioned a familiar quotation from Rev. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963:
“I have a dream that … one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
She said it was important to give an accurate diagnosis for an illness, whether it was her own arthritis, or racial divisions plaguing this nation.
“Getting the ‘what’ right is essential to getting the ‘how’ right,” Edwards said.
To that end, Edwards said that three words sometimes used interchangeably — culture, ethnicity, and race — were not the same, and provided definitions and examples.
Edwards said the latter word has connotations of worth and exclusion that have led to historical tragedies, such as slavery and Jim Crow, citizenship laws, the genocide of Native Americans, and today’s markedly higher incarceration rates for blacks and Hispanics than whites.
“The race thing is like a cancer,” Edwards said. “Race is the most dangerous idea.”
There is a cure for the malady, however — the “Good News” of the Christian Gospel which was preached by King in his time and by others to this day.
“The remedy is freedom and justice,” Edwards said. “The Gospel is radical. It flipped the script.”
The Gospel is about equality, freedom, love, service and mutual submission, she said. Unfortunately, race has sometimes canceled out the Gospel. When that happens, though, Edwards said we must “eradicate whatever allows race and its effects to persist.”
She concluded by saying, “Be radical, be vigilant, be relentless. Keep the faith, and we will see God’s glory.”
Also at the breakfast, OWU’s Gospel Lyres choir led the standing audience in performing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Four local students were announced as MLK Jr. Scholarship recipients, and it was said there would be five next year.
Jon Powers received a special recognition award for his work on the Delaware County MLK Celebration Committee.
“I may be retired, but I have not retreated,” Powers said. “We still have work to do.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.