In 1963, a hopeful, stoic Martin Luther King, Jr. declared to 250,000 activists and onlookers that, despite the difficulties of today and tomorrow, he had a dream. He dreamed of, believed in, a brighter future. Four years later, Dr. King struck a much more somber tone.
“We were the dreamers of a dream that dark yesterdays of man’s inhumanity to man would soon be transformed into bright tomorrows of justice…. Our hopes have been blasted and our dreams have been shattered,” Dr. King said at the National Conference on New Politics in 1967. He warned of “a triple prong sickness that has been lurking within our body politic from its very beginning. That is the sickness of racism, excessive materialism and militarism.”
Keynote speaker Lance Wheeler will address Dr. King’s warning about the three evils and reflect on his legacy in the 21st century. Wheeler, published historian and director of exhibits at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, will also examine how we can bridge the generational gap of history for hope, freedom and equity in a new era for civil and human rights.
The ongoing threats of poverty, racism and militarism will also be addressed by local and national experts who will take measure of the current situation and offer paths forward. Mona Jenkins, director of development and operations for the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, will address the issue of homelessness; Jaipal Singh from the Cincinnati Regional Coalition Against Hate will offer perspective on ethnic conflict; and Dr. Celia Williamson, executive director of the University of Toledo’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, will take on the challenge of human trafficking, which often flourishes in regions riddled by military conflict. Linda Early Chastang, interim president and CEO of the John and Lillian Miles Lewis Foundation, will address a fourth evil identified by the Freedom Center as a critical threat to equity in America: voting rights.
“That Dr. King’s legacy has long endured is a testament to his character. That his lessons and inspiration continue to resonate is both a testament to the unfortunate and wicked persistence of hate but also the indomitable will of those who choose love and equity,” said Woodrow Keown, Jr., president and COO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “Dr. King has proven that racism and hate cannot destroy a legacy, cannot extinguish hope. We are still in pursuit of Dr. King’s dream and we will continue to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”
While the King Legacy Celebration highlights the evils threatening equity today, speakers will also reflect on Dr. King’s six principles of nonviolence as a way to overcome those evils:
- Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people, presented by Raffel Prophett, president of the MLK Coalition.
- Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding, presented by Dave Serio, educator and public programming specialist with the Arab American National Museum.
- Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people, presented by Frances Vicioso, Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Manager at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.
- Nonviolence holds that suffering for a cause can educate and transform people and societies, presented by Allison Reynolds-Berry, executive director of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center.
- Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate, presented by Larry James of Beloved Community.
- Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice, presented by Dr. Noelle Trent, director of interpretation, collections and education at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel.
Tickets for the King Legacy Celebration are $15 and are able now at freedomcenter.org/klc22.
MLK Day hours
The Freedom Center will be open on MLK Day, January 17, 2022 from Noon to 5 p.m. with a robust slate of programming, including musical performances, dramatic readings and more. Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, access will be managed through a ticketing process to manage capacity.