MLK speaker at Manchester battles racism by building understanding
"After 148 years of nothing but violence and hatred, it's time we get to know one another on a social basis, not under a cover of darkness." –Daryl Davis
Manchester University has selected a musician and author – one who has made it his quest to understand and combat racism – to be the keynote speaker at its 49th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance and Rededication Ceremony.
Daryl Davis will offer “No Place for Hate” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, in Cordier Auditorium on the North Manchester campus. It is free and open to the public.
The observance commemorates King’s last speech at a college campus. He presented “The Future of Integration” at Manchester on Feb. 1, 1968, two months before he was slain in Memphis, Tenn.
Having spent his early childhood in Europe and Africa as the son of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, Davis didn't experience racism until he returned to the United States at age 10 and was pelted with rocks, splintered bottles and debris while carrying the U.S. flag for his nearly all-white Cub Scout troop at a parade near Belmont, Mass.
At 15 he was jeered at and told by the head of the American Nazi Party that he would be shipped back to Africa. In his 20s and 30s, then an up-and-coming musician, Davis was attacked by racist police officers.
Driven by the need to understand those who, without ever having met him, would hate him because of the color of his skin, Davis decided to delve into roots of racism. This journey led him to seek out and befriend some Ku Klux Klan members, including Roger Kelly, who was then the KKK Imperial Wizard.
As outlined in his book, Klan-Destine Relationships, Davis uses conversation and music to bridge this seemingly uncrossable gulf. His work is also featured in the documentary Accidental Courtesy.
“His message is on how hate can manifest itself when individuals don’t take time to hear the other side and find some common ground,” said Michael Dixon, MU director of intercultural services.
Sponsored by the Manchester Office of Multicultural Affairs and Peace Studies Institute, the Feb. 2 speech is part of the Values, Ideas and the Arts series, designed to offer cultural exposure, artistic experiences and intellectual enrichment to students. It is common to explore important, and sometimes uncomfortable, topics.
With 1,600 students at its campuses in North Manchester and Fort Wayne, Manchester University respects the infinite worth of every individual, promotes responsible citizenship and puts high value on service. It calls on the diverse faiths of its community members to make the world a kinder and better place, establish justice and build peace amid strife. It has students from 20 nations. Learn more about the private, northern Indiana school at www.manchester.edu.