NEW ORLEANS (January 24, 2022) – Dr. Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University, urged HBCU leadership and students to continue the “prophetic rebellion” and combative spirituality fostered by Martin Luther King Jr.’s mentor at Morehouse University.
Kimbrough was keynote speaker at the main virtual event Jan. 17 commemorating King’s birthday 93 years ago in 1929 sponsored by the UNCF and the National Alumni Council of UNCF. The event also featured DU junior Paulina Webber, an English major from Little Rock who is secretary of the National Pre-Alumni Council here.
Kimbrough urged his fellow university presidents to adapt the courageous leadership style of civil rights activist Benjamin E. Mays, the sixth president of Morehouse University who served during King’s enrollment there, by addressing social issues and encouraging their students to actively pursue reform.
Mays, whose life was devoted to challenging racism, is considered to have influenced many civil rights leaders, including King, who considered Mays his “spiritual father.” Mays delivered the eulogy at King’s funeral.
“Embrace the prophetic rebellion of May,” Kimbrough said. “We have to pick a side. We have to get into the fight. Hear the call for justice, and fight for it.”
The main event, live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook with the theme “Education Can Build a Better World,” included musical performances and prize giveaways. Notable participants included U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN; U.S. Sen. John Ossoff, D-GA; gospel recording artist Geoffrey Golden, a 2016 Morehouse graduate; and Alia Scoot, Miss National UNCF 2020-22. About 150 people attended.
Klobuchar used her time to reflect on the work that still needs to be done for racial equality, citing the voting rights bill debate. Klobuchar asked viewers to answer the call to action by volunteering their time to make a positive difference in their communities.
“We must work to lift up communities of color….Take on [King’s] torch for equality and justice for all,” Klobuchar said.
The broadcast also was used to raise awareness about UNCF fundraising efforts on behalf of students and member institutions, with a goal of $5,000 set for the event.Testimony of the organization’s educational impact was offered by a range of students, including Christina Guttierez, a graduating senior at Spellman College in Atlanta.
“Students like me can continue to be encouraged by UNCF through their social justice campaigns, leadership conferences and generous scholarships that make education possible for many,” Guttierez said in one of the pre-taped public service announcements. “That is why your continued financial support is needed.
Other UNCF events included three city events in New York, Washington and Minneapolis.
King, national civil rights activist, was born Jan. 15, 1929. The co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta – with his father, Martin Luther King Sr. – rose to prominence during when he oversaw the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott. Fighting racial inequality through nonviolent resistance, he became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and later expanded his focus to include opposition to poverty, capitalism and the Vietnam War.
He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he gave his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and was assassinated in Memphis in April 1968 at the age of 39. Several cities and states began to celebrate his birthday starting in 1971; it became a federal holiday in 1986 during the tenure of President Ronald Reagan.