On Thursday Jan. 14, the College’s Office of Institutional Diversity held their annual event in observance with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The evening featured a lecture given by South Carolina state senator Marlon E. Kimpson, speaking on the legacy of Dr. King and his message’s continuing relevance in today’s society.
Kimpson’s speech was preceded by Dr. John O. Bello-Ogunu, Sr., Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at the O.I.D. Ogunu began by expressing gratitude for his staff and the Office of Multicultural Student Programs in preparing for the night’s event, as well as those in attendance.
“Tonight, [we’d like to] leave renewed, and usher in a new era of [understanding in the midst of] all of the unfortunate tragedies during the past several months,” said Ogunu. Foreshadowing a large topic of the night’s discussion, Ogunu mentioned M.L.K.’s relevance in light of recent events, particularly within South Carolina.
“There’s so much work to do in order to improve race relations and achieve harmony in our nation, especially in Charleston,” said Ogunu, before quoting Dr. King. “We must learn to forgive others that wrong us for being different, and develop and maintain the capacity to forgive.”
Next to speak was Angel Parson, Associate Director of Student Life/Services & Events at the O.I.D., as she introduced Senator Kimpson, highlighting his career and accomplishments, first as a lawyer and then as a politician and State Senator.
Kimpson began his lecture by speaking on his humble beginnings. His parents instilled in him the importance of education from an early age.
He then noted that Jan. 15, 2016 would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 87th birthday, before highlighting three particular moments in South Carolina that M.L.K. would’ve been particularly concerned with.
The three events mentioned were the shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston on April 4, the murder of nine at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church on June 17, and the lowering of the Confederate flag from the SC Capitol building on July 10.
“Hate begets hate,” said Kimpson. “We must meet physical force with soul force.”
Commenting upon the recent string of police brutality incidents, Kimpson mentioned his own litigation as one of the primary sponsors of the body camera bill in South Carolina.
Kimpson then approached the topic of the tragic Emanuel A.M.E. shooting, noting that Dr. King himself had preached there in 1962. Kimpson highlighted the forgiveness given by the family of those slain in spite of the brutalities committed.
“MLK taught how and why to love our enemies,” Kimpson said. “Hate and hate alone intensifies evil in our universe. Love transforms and redeems our enemies.”
Kimpson then linked the idea of forgiveness to the third event: the descent of the Confederate flag at the SC state grounds. “It was not the Emanuel shooting alone that brought flag down, said Kimpson. “Love, forgiveness. and peaceful agitation [played a large part].”
The state senator then spoke on his desire for gun reform laws, with the completion of background checks crucial to the process, before recalling an anecdote of Dr. King acquiring a gun after numerous threats and his own house having been bombed by segregationists.
After giving a lot of thought to the idea of owning a firearm and discussing it heavily with his wife, Dr. King had instead opted to get rid of it, stating “How could I serve as one of the leaders of a nonviolent movement and at the same time use weapons of violence for my personal protection?”
Kimpson noted that Dr. King would’ve lost a sense of moral high-ground as a gun-owner and emphasized the important of peaceful protest.
Before making his final remarks, Kimpson commented on future ambitions, emphasizing the passing of Medicaid expansion and the raising of minimum wage to $15.
He then closed by quoting Dr. King and his famous “A Knock at Midnight” speech.
“The dawn will come. Disappointment, sorrow and despair are born at midnight, but morning follows. Weeping may endure for a night, says the Psalmist, but joy cometh in the morning. This faith adjourns the assemblies of hopelessness and brings new light into the dark chambers of pessimism. I am the master of my fate.”
Closing remarks were made by Ashley Ragin, Student Diversity Program Assistant at the O.I.D., before a short vigil was held with song and prayer led by Rev. Dr. Charles R. Watkins, Jr. of Morris Brown A.M.E. Church.