Marc Lamont Hill shares Martin Luther King’s legacy

Dr. Marc Lamont Hill addressed UConn students on Monday, Jan. 16 at the Jorgensen Center. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

CNN political commentator Dr. Marc Hill discussed black history, activism and the recent election at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts Monday night, as part of the University of Connecticut’s Martin Luther King Day of Observance.

“Today is special,” Hill said, standing before the crowd of students, professors and UConn faculty in attendance. “Today is special because we are celebrating the life of Martin King. Few people take the time to take Dr. King seriously.”

Hill was the keynote speaker for UConn’s Day of Observance, organized by the the African American Cultural Center, Office of Diversity and Inclusion and several other UConn offices and organizations.

UConn President Herbst gave the opening remarks for the event, discussing unity at UConn.

“As a university dedicated to education, it is incumbent upon us to celebrate this day,” she said.

Director of the African American Cultural Center Dr. Willena Price introduced Hill to the stage.

“He continues to be a social justice activist,” Price said. “He’s a down to earth, real brother.”

Hill, author of the New York Times bestseller “Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond,” teaches African American Studies as a Distinguished Professor at Morehouse College in Georgia. Hill encouraged students to partake in activism and social justice as part of King’s legacy.

“What does it mean for us to struggle in 2017... With mass unemployment, mass incarceration...presidents that are acting more like CEO’s? That’s what King would say,” Hill said. “We have so much work to do. Dr. King would be challenging us to do that work.”   

Hill was impassioned in his speech, inviting the audience to stand up and sing the Black American National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” He also discussed the apathy of the modern age.

“Everyone can do something,” Hill said. “So many of us fail to do anything. We are in a bitter moment. We need bravery at all turns.”

Along with Hill’s speech, the observance included performances and speeches from African American students and organizations on campus, including the UConn Voices of Freedom Gospel Choir singing “This Little Light of Mine” and a cultural expression by the UConn Praise Dancers.

Those who attended the event said Hill’s speech was inspiring.

“He was really powerful and relatable,” Sydney Fowora, a fourth-semester actuarial science major, said. “It was definitely an eye-opener.”

Some students said they attended to better connect to others and learn about activism.

“The speech was really passionate,” Sharon Cherian, a resident assistant and sixth-semester cognitive science major, said. “It inspired me to act more in the community.”

The evening ended with another performance from the UConn Voices of Freedom, leading a sing-along of the activism song “We Shall Overcome,” as audience members held up candles. Price then gave one final remark to the crowd as the final chorus ended.

“UConn,” Price said. “I challenge you to be the light.


Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.