Hughley looks at Kings legacy at annual WFU/WSSU celebration

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Hundreds filled the K.R. Williams Auditorium Monday night at Winston-Salem State University to participate in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. program hosted by WSSU and Wake Forest University. The theme of this year’s program was “On Common Ground: A Dream Deferred.”

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the foremost intellectuals of the 20th century. As a Baptist Minister, he was able to use Christian social ethics and the New Testament concept of love heavily in his writings and speeches. It’s also because his intellectualism that he was able to weave in eastern spiritual traditions, Gandhi’s political writings, Buddhism’s notion of the interconnectedness of all the things and ancient Greek philosophy,” said Dr. Elwood Robinson, WSSU Chancellor. “As we celebrate this national holiday, we are called to honor Dr. King’s legacy by working towards the freedom and equality that is a part of America. Let us move forward together inspired by his message and dedicated to his dream.”

Comedian, political commentator, radio show host and actor D.L. Hughley gave the keynote address.

The standup comedian has been a part of the “Black and Brown Comedy Get Down” tour, has served on his own CNN talk show “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News,” hosts the morning show on WRKS-FM, is a weekly contributor to the nationally syndicated radio show “The Tom Joyner Morning Show’ and has release his latest book “Black Man, White House: An Oral History of the Obama Years” which recently made the New York Times Bestseller list.

Through his trademark comedy, he addressed the current political climate and the state of people of color in America saying that if King came back today it would be familiar to him compared to eight years ago.

“I think that Martin Luther King inspired us to be here now. I know that he inspired me to be able to speak a truth, whether that’s popular or not,” Hughley said. “Friday will mark a different day but I think we should not have been surprised by that. I think that it’s not shocking that fear and silence won that day.”
He addressed the meetings that President-elect Donald Trump has been having with many African-American celebrities, saying that everyone should be open to discussion.

“I don’t think it’s wrong to have meetings. I think it’s wrong to not know why you’re there. I think the premise is wrong. I think that athletes and entertainers have a story to tell but I don’t think that we should be the voices of African-Americans,” he said. “I think if the President-elect was serious about changing situations for African-Americans, instead of lobbying entertainers and performers, he would look to the current president as a standard.”

Hughley said that in order to make this country better we have to understand the value of education.
“We have to understand what it means and what it can do,” he said. “I think that Martin Luther King showed us what we could be and that we could be everything that we aspire to be. I think that we’re in the situation that we are in right now because we forgot. I think that we’ve forgotten where we came from because we stopped listening to the stories before us. I’ve never seen so many woke but asleep at the wheel. It’s our participation that matters.”

In his speech, Hughley encouraged others to do what they can to make the world a better place saying that the example of Dr. King is even more necessary.

“I watch the world because I don’t just want to be a bystander. I don’t encourage you to be a bystander,” he said. “I encourage you to do the best you can for the people around you for as long as you can. I think the only way we get better is to acknowledge where we have been and to look forward to where we have to go. I hope that we do it together because that’s the only way it works.”

Earlier in the evening there was an invitation-only banquet where students, faculty and staff from both institutions were recognized with the “Building the Dream” award in recognition of their efforts toward improving social justice and building community. Those awards were presented to WFU Professor Derek Hicks, WFU Seniors Rose O’Brien and Cazandra Rebollar, WSSU Professors Dawn N. Tafari and Fran Bates-Oates and WSSU student Dishanda Brown.

“As we prepare to serve in an increasingly global, diverse, polarized and often confusing world, it is up to us to become the kind of people and kind of community that will be known for those eulogy virtues,” said Dr. Nathan O. Hatch, president of Wake Forest University. “Tonight, as we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King I hope you will be inspired. I hope you will be moved to act and I hope you will pursue the virtues that we’d all like.”