On Thursday, Feb. 13, in the North Academic Avenue Building, Kean University presented the most recent speaker in their Distinguished Lecture Series. This month's speaker was Martin Luther King III, who spoke to the Kean community about the injustices many in the community are currently facing as well as the importance of voting and overcoming voter suppression.
Kean University's Distinguished Lecture Series provides the community with a chance for one-on-one interactions with important, sometimes polarizing figures in the world today. This month's Distinguished Lecture Series featured Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. King III is following in his father's footsteps by advocating for a more just world, and equality for all people.
To start the evening, the President of Kean University Dawood Farahi, Ph.D, spoke to the crowd. His speech touched on the importance of college students and how they have the ability to make a great change in the world if they take on the responsibility to do so.
"Don't forget one other thing: Higher education is the greatest equalizer in America. What you put [in your mind], nobody can take it away from you. I came to this country with less then $200 and my dream was to someday become a manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken," President Farahi said. "That's where my dream was, until somebody told me to get a college degree. Get a graduate degree. So, if I could be standing in front of you, imagine what you could do. Imagine what you could do for social justice. Imagine what you could do for equality, and what you could do to suppress the worst enemy of the human kind: Bigotry and prejudice. And I hope you can do it. And, I know you can do it. Please, you should do it."
President Farahi then introduced Shaun Boothe, a hip-hop artist from Canada. Boothe spoke on the importance of every individual accessing their own personal power and unique abilities to serve humanity.
"For me, continuing Dr. King's legacy is really about tapping into our own greatness. Our own personal power, investing in ourselves and unlocking our gifts to contribute to humanity in our own unique ways. Not necessarily like Doctor King, but in our own way," said Boothe.
Boothe went on to explain how he accessed his own personal power by creating the "The Unauthorized Biography Series," which focuses on revealing the history and background of great people of the past. Boothe explained why the series was created and why it was important to him.
"I created a hip-hop series where I tell the life stories of the world's greatest heroes, the world's greatest cultural icons, through biographical rap [and] songs," said Boothe. "When we see what has been done by others in the past, that helps us to believe in what can be done by us in the present."
After Boothe, Christine Thorpe, Ed.D., Dean of the Nathan Weiss Graduate College, introduced Martin Luther King III. She described his history, and how he has continued his father's fight for social justice and equality for all people, no matter what race or social standing.
King III then took to the podium with a speech that focused on the importance of the month of February which is Black History Month. He spoke about acknowledging and remembering the people who came before who fought for equality, equal rights and justice. He also informed the crowd that now is not yet a time for celebrating, as so many people are still lacking basic human rights.
"We cannot yet celebrate when so many of our sisters and brothers are being crushed by poverty, racism and violence. You see, We cannot celebrate when African Americans are still experiencing violence from some law enforcement while driving, walking and just living black. We cannot celebrate when highly qualified leaders of color are so often cheated in elections because of voter suppression. And, I'm sure many of you are aware, that college students also face voter suppression in many ways. Now, my hope is that you will stay vigilant and alert to the devious tricks that will be employed to undercut your voting power in this year. Especially being that this is the election year," King III said.
King III stressed the importance of voting and letting one's voice be heard. Everyone needs to be vigilant and aware of the ways others might try to prevent their voice from being heard, especially during an election year. After, his speech, King III had a discussion with Thorpe and answered questions posed by the crowd.