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MLK Jr. convocation speaker calls attention to racial, economic divide

On January 16, the Office of Academic Affairs and Diversity presented “The 21st Century Civil Rights Movement: Blurring the Color Line,” a discussion with Marc Morial. Morial is a lawyer, entrepreneur and politician; he was the youngest lawyer to argue a case before the Louisiana State Supreme Court. The presentation was the 21st annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Convocation.

Morial began the lecture with the notion that we must accept and embrace the hardships our nation has overcome in order to truly appreciate where America is today.

When the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 the nation was divided in its discourse. At that time, 50 percent of African Americans were at or below the poverty line. States like Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina were in terrible conditions, with African Americans and other people of color facing prejudice and segregation every day.

Morial said, “We are challenged to ask, ‘Have we really changed or is it still the same? And what does the future hold?’ That should be discussed and debated because they were discussed and debated in the 50s and 60s, which changed the nation.”

In addition to addressing where our nation stands on the racial divide, Morial focused on the idea that we must plan for the future and accept the realities of our current state, economically, socially and politically. “The times we live in are being evermore defined by the economic divide. We must tackle the great economic divide by investing in our people. In order to unite this divide we must recognize that it is not imaginary,” he said. Morial explained that closing this separation in economic status is vital in moving forward as a nation and ensuring a prosperous future for the children of our generation.

Morial closed the lecture by imploring the audience to take action, quoting Dr. King: “We must not be thermometers, but thermostats.” Morial explained that it is necessary for us to take charge and work together to accept our current economic condition and formulate ways to improve it. We must set the temperature—the social climate—in the room. As Martin Luther King Jr. did fifty years ago, we must gather the courage to make a difference and improve America for our coming generations and ourselves.

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MLK Jr. convocation speaker calls attention to racial, economic divide