Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr., addressed hundreds of attendees inside the Center for the Arts Tuesday evening.
King, a human rights activist, philanthropist and advocate, encouraged community members to follow in his father’s footsteps by protesting in a “non-violent” manner.
“Please accept the challenge of becoming a peacemaker,” King said. “Do whatever you can to prevent violence and help create a non-violent society. Everyone can contribute to this cause and so far, there is no country on earth that does not need more healers or peacemakers.”
King’s speech came two-and-a-half weeks after campus descended into chaos following Lt. Col. Allen West’s Student Union appearance. Hundreds of students protested the event, while an event organizer claimed she was assaulted by protesters. The university continues to look into Yik Yak posts that threatened protesters’ safety.
King mentioned West by name multiple times throughout the course of the event, which included a prepared speech and a lengthy Q&A facilitated by Black Student Union president Josie Nimarko. The Q&A featured a couple of questions UB students submitted to the Student Association via email earlier in the day.
“We have a capacity where we can get people to listen and to bring about change and to bring people closer together,” King said. “But I also think we have to have hard conversations because we live in a nation where people act as if maybe it’s not happening.
“My hope is that students and faculty at the University at Buffalo will help lead this appeal.”
King stressed the importance of protesting in a civil manner.
“My father once explained how non-violence works,” King said. “As he put it, the non-violent approach does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect, because of the resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. And finally, it stirs the conscience of the opponent, that reconciliation becomes a reality.”
The event was marked by a noticeable police presence and three metal detectors that all attendees had to pass through upon entry. The audience was significantly more cordial during the King speech than the West speech.
Throughout the speech and the Q&A, King struck a positive tone, while reflecting on the uncertainties of the present moment.
“I know it’s hard to stay positive at a time when too many of our political leaders engage in vicious attacks against vulnerable communities and nations on the one hand, and shameful neglect of human needs on the other,” King said. “But we must stay positive and refuse to be distracted if we want to keep America moving forward.”
Justin Weiss is the managing editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Jack Porcari is a senior news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Justin Weiss is The Spectrum's managing editor. In his free time, he can be found hiking, playing baseball or throwing things at his TV when his sports teams aren't winning. His words have appeared in Elite Sports New York and the Long Island Herald. He can be found on Twitter @Jwmlb1.
Jack Porcari is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum. He is a political science major with a minor in journalism. Aside from writing and editing, he enjoys playing piano, flow arts, reptiles and activism.