Tuesday, September 02, 2014

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Dr. Cornel West Speaks at MLK Event at RIT

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Rochester: Dr. Cornel West Speaks at MLK Event at RIT
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The celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King's life and legacy continued Monday at RIT. It's the 30th anniversary of the college's annual tribute to the slain civil rights leader. This year's keynote speaker has made it his crusade to keep King's word alive.

Nearly 1,000 people packed into the Gordon Field House at RIT for the Expressions of King's Legacy series.

Garth Fagan Dance opened the program with a number that was a reminder of a time when slavery was prevalent in the United States. That was followed by poet Joshua Bennett reciting original work that fit the title of the event.

"If love was a club that we both got into for free, we haven't stopped dancing for decades because we love the music in here,” said Bennett.

Love was also the theme of Dr. Cornel West's keynote address. The former Princeton university professor and political activist said living and participating are all part of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy. West said it was fitting that an event honoring Dr. King began with the work of artists.

"I don't want you to be spectators; I want you to be participants. Participants – and that's precisely why it was so crucial that we had the artists set the tone and the spirit," said West.

Those listening to West speak say it reminded them of King himself with the dynamics of his voice and the way he gripped the crowd. They say the message they take home is one of love.

"We should treat other people essentially the way Dr. King said that we would like to be treated,” said Gorman Grannum.

"The message I also got out of is to learn how to die. I had never looked at that concept like that, it was very life changing for me and I'm going to go home and do even more reading,” said Laticia Eggleston.

West also talked about how America may need Martin Luther King more today than we did when King was alive, and many attending the talk today couldn't agree more.

“It's because more people are living in poverty and the gap between the haves and the havenots is growing wider,” said Dr. Edward Yansen.

"We need to look among ourselves and begin to find collective leadership. I don't think there's any single person. I think the challenges that we need to examine are in our own lives to see how we can best capture the things he's done and use those things to solve the problems that exist right now," Yansen added.

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