This past Wednesday Jan. 30, 2019, author and activist Tim Wise delivered a lecture at Siena as the speaker of the 32nd Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series on Race and Nonviolent Social Change. This year’s lecture was held in the MAC to accommodate the large audience. I’m terrible with numbers, but there were easily over 200 students, faculty, and people from the local community at the event.
Wise had a very commanding presence as a speaker, constantly keeping the attention on him and using his humor to connect with the audience. He commented at the beginning of his presentation that he has been delivering speeches nationwide for almost thirty years, and his impressive rhetorical abilities shone through.
Wise spoke on how King’s memory has ultimately been sanitized and stripped of “revolutionary content” in America’s historical memory, explaining that people only remember the parts of King’s philosophy that make them comfortable. “See, everybody will tell you that they marched with Dr. King,” Wise said. “If everybody who says that they marched with Dr. King had actually marched with Dr. King, we wouldn’t be having to have this conversation about racism in 2019.”
The MLK keynote centered on the idea of a dangerous historical memory. Wise tied this notion to the 2016 election, immigration conflicts, and police brutality, honing in on the idea that past history is constantly repeating itself due to America’s faulty historical memory. “We keep trying to reinvent the wheel instead of understanding that we’re fighting the same dragons,” Wise explained, “the same monsters we’ve always been fighting.” He concluded his lecture optimistically and answered an hour of audience questions.
I will be covering Wise’s visit in the 2/15 issue of The Promethean, so if you’re interested in more extensive coverage of his time on campus and lecture, be sure to check it out.
With the first week of classes drawing to a close and a massive snowstorm rolling in, everyone’s looking forward to having Monday off. A long weekend means sleeping in, catching up on Netflix, and getting a small break from work and school. It’s important, though, to remember that this Monday marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day. MLK day is observed on the third Monday of January every year in celebration of MLK’s birthday. The holiday celebrates King’s life and legacy, as well as encourages a day of reflection.
“The holiday must be substantive as well as symbolic. It must be more than a day of celebration . . . Let this holiday be a day of reflection, a day of teaching nonviolent philosophy and strategy, a day of getting involved in nonviolent action for social and economic progress.” -Coretta Scott King
In recognition of King’s life and tremendous achievements, Siena will be hosting a weeklong series of events, including a mass, a gospel concert, and a day of service. The 2nd Annual MLK Week runs from January 23-20, 2019 and ends with the Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series of Race and Nonviolent Social Change. This year’s keynote speaker is Tim Wise, an anti-racism activist. He will be delivering his lecture, “Challenging the Culture of Cruelty: Understanding and Defeating Race and Class Inequity in America,” on Wednesday January 30 at 7pm in the MAC.
I attended last year’s MLK keynote speaker, author and activist Luis Alberto Urrea, and was incredibly moved by his talk on immigration and acceptance. Before delivering his keynote lecture, Urrea even met with creative writing students in a hour-long lunch. Wise will be meeting with students on campus before his lecture as well and leading a workshop in Dr. Wilhite’s African American Literature class. I’m looking forward to attending Tim Wise’s upcoming talk and am hoping to see a successful turnout for the event. Last year’s speaker brought a full house, so if you’re hoping to find a seat during the lecture, be sure to arrive early!
Best wishes for a restful, reflective weekend.