MLK Banquet: Breaking the silence

DeeShawnte Jefferson, staff writer

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To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., VU faculty, staff, students and the community gathered together to hear how influential he really was. Guest speaker Frank Leon Roberts provided a message titled “The King We Forgot” during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. banquet.

The event took place on Tuesday, Jan. 22 in the Green Activities Center. It was hosted by the Department of Multicultural Affairs, under the direction of Cortney Cross.

Roberts is known for teaching the first Black Lives Matter course in the country. He is an activist and is a current faculty member at NYU’s Gallatin School.

The message was Robert’s way of going in detail about all the impactful things that King did in his time, as well as the influence King still has today. Roberts acknowledged the fact that not only was King an African American speaker, he was a prophet.

“[…]part of the problem with how we remember Dr. King today is that too many of us want to remember King the peace-maker without remembering King the prophet,” said Roberts. Roberts then mentioned the fact that Dr King was arrested 39 times by the age of 35.

“The brother was arrested so much that the board of trustees at Morehouse College, true story, would not put them on their board of trustees because they said that King was ‘a negative influence on black people,’” he said.

There were people who labeled King the most dangerous man in America.

“What made him a dangerous man is that he was a prophet of love, a preacher of love, a poet of love,” said Roberts.

Along with speaking about MLK, Roberts acknowledged and spoke about the Black Lives Matter Movement. He noted that segregation and inequality are still going on today. This is how the theme “Breaking the Silence” came about for the MLK banquet.

In an interview after his presentation, Roberts was asked what sparked his interest in the Black Lives Matter Movement.

“Being a black person in America, that sparked my interest. I was interested in showing up for my people, standing in solidarity for my people, and spreading the good news about all this movement has to offer,” he said.

He was then asked if he has ever been racially profiled.

“Of course I have, in many ways and I think that’s the experience of far too many African American men and women throughout this country. But that doesn’t discourage me, that’s what fuels me, that’s the fire that keeps me going, those experiences help me come to you and share those experiences,” he said.

Toward the end of the interview, an African American student who requested to be anonymous joined the interview and asked Roberts what advice he would give to an African American student who goes to a predominantly white college.

Roberts responded, “To recognize that you belong to a rich and long tradition. Dr King went to Boston University, a predominantly white institution after he went to Morehouse. And I could list several black icons that went to a predominantly white institution, so you are not alone, you belong to a tradition, and to keep doing the work, keep showing up on campus, and keep representing that long tradition of speaking truth about us.”

Roberts encouraged people to follow his Twitter page @frankleonrobert and to visit his website BlackLivesMatterSyllabus.com.