Barry McNamara  |   Published January 14, 2018

Dr. King’s words apply today

MLK Day speaker: As struggle for equal rights continues, non-violent protest is key
  • Lecia Brooks, outreach director of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., delivers the keynote address at Monmouth College’s annual MLK Convocation.
“Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – On a Martin Luther King Jr. Day when his surviving daughter, Bernice King, said that the nation desperately needs to hear the of voice of the slain Civil Rights icon, students at Monmouth College did just that on Monday afternoon by listening to a keynote speaker who directs the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Ala.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to speak on King Day,” said Southern Poverty Law Center Outreach Director Lecia Brooks, who opened her presentation with the King quotation above. “One of the things I really like is the opportunity to go through all his quotes. This man was brilliant.”

Brooks said that much was accomplished during King’s lifetime, which was ended 50 years ago this April by an assassin’s bullet, but she also reminded the crowd at Dahl Chapel and Auditorium that there is still much to be done in the “struggle for equal rights.” As an example, she cited a 2016 Southern Poverty Law Center report that listed 917 active hate groups in the United States, including 32 in Illinois.

“We expect the number will increase for 2017,” she said.

Brooks said one of the biggest reminders of how far the nation has to go in the struggle for equal rights was the riot last August in Charlottesville, Va., which she called “the largest public demonstration by a hate group, probably since the 1950s.”

“There were no masks, no hoods,” she said. “You have to remember that it happened right here (in the United States). It was an awful, awful, awful act of racial intimidation.”

Although the violence of the Charlottesville riots dominated the news cycle for several weeks, Brooks said that “less-talked-about acts are happening every day,” especially on some U.S. college campuses.

“Colleges are ground zero for recruiting new members (to hate groups),” she said. “It’s a terrible, terrible mistake if we allow this type of behavior to become normalized.”

Brooks said that one of the best ways to combat hate groups is to emulate how King led the Civil Rights struggle more than a half-century ago – through non-violent protest.

“We have to maintain the moral high ground,” she said referring to a King quotation that included the line, “We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.”

Brooks pointed out that King did not always embrace non-violent protest. In the 1940s, when King was 13, he was riding the bus home with his teacher after winning his first oratory competition. He was ordered to give up his seat to make room for a white person. Brooks said that King refused at first, but he was eventually forced to give in.

“It made him angry,” she said. “The indignity of being treated differently because of who you were.”

Brooks said it wasn’t until King came under the guidance of social movement leader Bayard Rustin that he learned about and then embraced non-violent protest.

“People behave hatefully, but we can move beyond it,” Brooks said. “The only way to win is through non-violent, peaceful protest. … We can’t be satisfied yet,” she said, until, to quote King, “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day convocation also featured music, which included a performance by the College vocal group Colorful Voices of Praise.

“This is a day of celebration for all Americans,” Monmouth College President Dr. Clarence Wyatt said in his welcoming remarks. “Dr. King’s life and work reminded us – and reminds us still – of the great promise of America, a place founded on the idea that we are all created equal. His life and work challenged us – and challenges us still – to redouble our efforts when we fall short – both as individuals and as a nation – of that promise.”

Added Wyatt: “Dr. King knew that our common contribution to human progress is to be a place where we are to be judged – and to judge others – not by the color of our skin, or by our faith, or by the place of our family’s origin, or by any set of attributes, but rather by the content of our character.”


Back to News & Events

Did you know?

  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> While we have the Wells Theater on campus, the Theatre department also uses the block-box auditorium Fusion Theatre downtown Monmouth.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/theatre/" target="_blank">Theatre</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College has an educational garden and 6.7 acre farm. Students grow and harvest fruits and vegetables to sell at the local farmer’s market. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="" target="_blank">Garden & Farm</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> We offer a certified Peace Corps Preparation program that gives Peace Corps bound graduates a leg up in the application process.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/peace-corps-prep/" target="_blank">Peace Corps Prep</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College offers several international trips each year during 2-week Scots Terms in January and May. Recently students have traveled to Botswana, Greece, Scotland, Japan, and more. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="" target="_blank">Scots Term</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College is the birthplace of the women’s fraternity movement. Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Beta Phi, two of the oldest sororities, were founded at Monmouth in the 1860’s. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/student-life/sororities-fraternities/" target="_blank">Sororities & Fraternities</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College has an active Pipe & Drum Band. Each year on Scholar’s Day in April the bagpipers wake students up at 6:00 a.m. by playing in the residence halls!</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/music/pipe-band/" target="_blank">Pipe Band</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College is proudly test optional. Applicants may choose whether or to submit SAT or ACT scores for admission and scholarship consideration. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/admission/apply/test-optional/" target="_blank">Test Optional</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College offers unique academic minors in Global Public Health and Global Food Security for students who want to use their education to address global challenges. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/global-public-health/" target="_blank">Global Public Health</a></li><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/global-food-security/" target="_blank">Global Food Security</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> 99% of Monmouth students received some type of scholarship or financial assistance.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/offices/student-financial-planning/types-of-aid/scholarships/" target="_blank">Scholarships</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> We’re no stranger to winning. Last year the Fighting Scots won Midwest Conference championships in Football, Women’s Soccer, Women’s Basketball and Men’s Track and Field. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="" target="_blank">Fighting Scots</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> 98% of Monmouth graduates were employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/wackerle-center/career-services/" target="_blank">Career Services</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Textbooks are included in the cost of tuition at Monmouth College. No need to try to plan for an additional expense, and our students start each semester fully prepared for classes. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/offices/student-financial-planning/tuition-fees/" target="_blank">Tuition & Fees</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College covers the cost for all current students to get a U.S. passport. Unlock access to over 198 different countries! We’ll even help with the paperwork :)</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/study-abroad/" target="_blank">Study Abroad</a></li></ul></div></aside>