Marc Lamont Hill honored Martin Luther King Jr.’s towering accomplishments and explored the significance of Florida State University’s 29th MLK Week theme, “Unfolding The Dream,” during his keynote lecture at the celebration’s headline event Tuesday, Jan. 17.
Hill, an award-winning journalist who serves as a host for BET News and a CNN political contributor, is considered one of America’s foremost intellectuals on the subjects of race and social justice. He was invited to discuss the enduring legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the manifold ways that his memory remains so abidingly important in contemporary civil rights movements.
In his introductory address, FSU President John Thrasher expressed gratitude for Hill’s participation and highlighted the ways that King’s spirit of justice and equality lives on through the tireless work and activism of Florida State students.
“Our students give me great hope for the future,” Thrasher said. “They are addressing many of the things that were important to Dr. King: human rights, social justice and economic opportunity. I believe that Dr. King’s legacy is alive here at Florida State, where we value every member of our community and appreciate that different points of view are key to having a dynamic learning environment.”
Hill’s lecture was delivered with verve, intellectual sophistication and a resolute focus on issues of social justice that echoed the famously impassioned speeches of King and other civil rights orators.
“‘Dream’ is such an interesting word,” Hill said. “The dream is said to be that which stands in contrast to reality, and that’s right. That’s the beauty of a dream. To dream is to have a radical imagination, to be unbeholden to the pragmatic, to say that ‘we don’t have to be reducible to our circumstances, we don’t have to be reducible to the moment.’”
Hill also challenged students to take up the mantle of King and continue striving, undaunted by difficulty or opposition, for a fairer and more equitable society.
“I’m challenging you all to keep the momentum, to keep dreaming a radical freedom dream, and to create a world that is not yet,” Hill said. “That is King’s dream.”
Before Hill’s address, the university announced the winners of the 2017 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Awards. This year, for the first time, two awards were presented: one to an administrator and one to a sitting faculty member.
Darryl Marshall, FSU assistant vice president for financial aid, received the award for his efforts in expanding the horizons of countless children in his hometown of Quincy, Fla., and for his advocacy on behalf of vulnerable students in his role as a financial aid official.
Okenwa Okoli, professor of engineering at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, received the award for his work in exposing young minority students to STEM disciplines through his involvement with the Diversity in Research and Engineering of Advanced Materials (DREAM) summer training program.
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award was established in 1986 to honor faculty members, administrators and staff members for their outstanding service in keeping with the principles and ideals of King.
Additionally, the university honored the winners of the 2017 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Book Stipend Awards. Endowed by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and the FSU Black Alumni, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Book Stipend Award is a scholarship designed to support outstanding graduate and undergraduate students as they complete their education.
This year’s six recipients were:
Marsha Isma, junior, political science and finance
Akice Agwa, freshman, sociology and international affairs
My An Le, sophomore, actuarial science
Kadian Baxter, junior, marketing
Arsene Fredric, junior, English
Cocoa Williams, a doctoral candidate whose dissertation investigates the intersections between writing and painting during and after the Harlem Renaissance.