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Program celebrates legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Speaker urges viewers to 'define the times'

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Organizers of Bryan-College Station’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Program said Monday’s holiday was a time to reflect and recharge.

“It is as time to recognize the struggle and to see how powerful a man he was in the United States,” said Agnes Gray, the MLK Program chair for the Brazos Valley Area Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. “This is another day where we are going to be rejuvenated and reenergized to keep our relationship with these situations and keep them alive and well, and encourage people to keep moving forward.”

The sorority canceled its annual Freedom March in Bryan, citing the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the area. Community members were encouraged to celebrate and honor King’s legacy through a program streamed on YouTube.

The program’s featured speaker was George Lee, a Bryan High School graduate and professor at the University of Oklahoma.

Olivia Body-Davenport, the sorority’s chapter president, said Lee’s experiences with adversity still influence his decisions today.

Lee started his speech by recalling a phrase he has heard many times.

“Old folks used to say ‘tell the truth and chain the devil,’ and from my understanding of history, that is exactly what [MLK] did,” he said. “He had a mastery of being able to speak truth to power, politically, socially and economically. So much to where they act like they love him today in this country, but we know that way back when, they did not like this man.

“The same country that asks ‘do you think Dr. Martin Luther King would approve of this?’ is the same country that didn’t approve of Dr. Martin Luther King,” Lee said.

He said the country that “wants us to believe they celebrated him in life and in death is the same country that literally blamed his death on him.”

Lee quoted tweets from King’s daughter, Bernice King, including: “Black children are human. Brown children are human. Racism is destroying the world that all children live in. And if adults are not courageous enough to confront it, what are we teaching our children? What are we leaving our children?”

Lee compared the civil rights movement with the modern Black Lives Matter movement.

“A lot of the ways that the media responds to us is the same exact ways that the media responded to us back in the ‘60s and one of the reasons why [MLK] talked about riots being the language of the unheard,” Lee said.

Lee challenged viewers of the program to consider their actions.

“In 2022, the question now is being given to you: What are you doing right now? Are you being defined by the times that are going around us or are you trying to define the times around us? Are you being reactive or proactive?” he said. “You can graduate from high school and have a 4.0 [grade point average] and not know anything about Black history or Black people, but you can’t say that the other way around. There is no way for you to be able to graduate from a high school or from a university and not know anything about the European history, or not knowing what white folks have done here in America. Education is elevation.”

Body-Davenport said Lee’s message was you “cannot change that which you do not understand, and in order to change you must have a starting point, and that starting point is consciousness.”

To watch the virtual event, visit go.theeagle.com/mlk.

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