January 22 , 2007
King's legacy still resonates worldwide
BY helen anne richards
As the keynote speaker during Emory’s King Week, Patricia Williams, professor of law at Columbia University, discussed what she calls “The Civil Rights Emergency” in the United States.
Williams said that a young man recently told her that, although he respected the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he felt disconnected from him and the civil rights movement. The young man expressed a “that was then and this is now” attitude about civil rights, and said the messages from the movement just don’t resonate with his age group, Williams said.
Williams told her audience that she understood the young man’s point, but that King’s work can be seen in many places today. King’s legacy, she said, lives in the labor movement, in the women’s movement, in older workers fighting age discrimination and in other places where people fight for personal dignity and worth.
“King was a message, a vessel, an inspiration to an entire generation,” she said.
And King continues to be an inspiration to people around the world. Emilliana Kweyu, a Kenyan graduate student at Candler School of Theology, said she became interested in King because his speeches affected her on both political and spiritual levels.
“The things Dr. King talked about, like social justice, equality and peace,” Kweyu said, “those things are still very important. Particularly equality.”
After she finishes her degree, Kweyu wants to return to Kenya and work to change the status of women in Kenya. She will be one of only a handful of native theologians teaching in Kenya.
The keynote address is one of many events held during King Week on the Emory campus, and each year the number of events in the celebration grows.
“People in the community look forward to Emory’s King Week each year,” said Cynthia Shaw, chair of Emory’s Martin Luther King Holiday Observance Committee. “They start calling me asking who’s going to give the keynote address or are we planning the Jazz Vespers again this year.
“We love to have different groups get involved with us,” she said. “We are very inclusive.”
Williams said in her speech that civil rights work is never done, but it is ethical work and legal work. And it has everything to do with human dignity.
Kweyu said, “Let’s use the legacy of Martin Luther King to address HIV/AIDS. We can come together as brothers and sisters and end this pandemic, not just in Africa, but in the world.”
For more information
about King Week or to get involved in next year’s celebration, visit www.emory.edu/MLK/ or call Cynthia Shaw at 404-727-4148.