Boykin: Society should be proactive

Keith Boykin discussed knowing the right thing to do versus following through on the action in his keynote speech Monday in the Student Center auditorium as part of the MLK Day events. Boykin is a New York Times bestselling author and a TV host for BET.

Knowing the right thing to do is not always the same as doing it.

This message was one of several points Keith Boykin conveyed to a crowded audience in the Student Center Auditorium.

Boykin, a TV host, author and editor, delivered the keynote address Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Boykin started by challenging the crowd to be proactive in society.
“I’m here to call us out for responsibility,” he said.

Shortly after he began, Boykin discussed the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti. Boykin believes Dr. King would have been involved in assisting the victims.

“We have all of the tools necessary to solve the problems we face,” Boykin said. “We can wipe out poverty if we want. It only takes a small group to make a change. Dr. King had a small group and he was able to change the world.”

His address contained numerous stories that had morals and lessons for the crowd to remember.

Boykin, a Harvard graduate, shared an account of his college years at the prestigious university.

Boykin attended Harvard Law with President Barack Obama and, while there, he staged several demonstrations to boycott what he believed to be unfair hiring practices that resulted in few minority faculty members.

Boykin recalled how one of the boycotts resulted in him chasing the law dean across campus to get his cause heard and understood.

A photograph of the incident appeared the next day in the Boston Globe on the front page of the Metro section, according to Boykin.

According to Boykin, this was an example of “speaking truth to power,” something he wanted the audience to learn.

“Dr. King was a visionary, he believed that all of us had something to benefit from social justice,” Boykin said.

Boykin urged the crowd to become more caring and aware of others.

“We have to learn that we need to be concerned about more than our people,” he said. “We have created a me-centered society. We have created a country of greed and selfishness.”

To become a united world, we must “fight the fear and embrace the love,” according to Boykin.

Boykin said Dr. King is a model of what society should strive to be.

“Dr. King would stand up for what was right and we have to learn to do the same thing,” Boykin said.

Boykin acknowledged when trying to do the right thing, people might be faced with fear, but it is imperative to not succumb to it.

“True courage is the ability to act despite the fear,” Boykin said. “This is the time to fight. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Boykin believes that by raising issues, things can change.

“We must change the temperature in this country,” he urged. “Raise the heat. Time to heat things up all across the country. If we don’t do anything, evil will truly prevail.”

Boykin closed with a powerful quote from Dr. King.

“If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving.”

Sheila Davidson, a parent of a freshman at EMU, was moved by Boykin’s address but particularly the ending quote.

“He brought tears to my eyes,” Davidson said. “He is empowering and a great example of what our children should want to be. Dr. King was such an intelligent man. We all should honor his legacy.”

After the address, many audience members moved to the Student Center Ballroom for the annual MLK Luncheon.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D- Dearborn), Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith (D-Salem) and the mayor of Ypsilanti, Paul Schreiber, were in attendance.

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-South Carolina) gave brief remarks at the luncheon.

Clyburn believes MLK Day is a day of empowerment and service.

“You need to be revived. That’s what MLK Day is about,” Clyburn said. “Celebrate it and revive it. We must rejuvenate ourselves.”

Clyburn wants younger generations to get involved.

“I do believe young people ought to look at ways to get that done,” he said. “Get refocused.”

Charnessa Paige, program coordinator for the Center for Multicultural Affairs, was part of a planning committee that designed T-shirts honoring Dr. King.

100 percent of the proceeds from the T-shirt sales will go toward the earthquake victims.

The committee partnered with Doctors Without Borders, an international medical humanitarian organization, to deliver the funds to Haiti.

Paige said she felt privileged to be able to honor Dr. King by aiding others.

“It’s great to continuously honor him to help one another,” Paige said. “It is a fitting honor to engage in this. It is important for us to remember his [Dr. King’s] work did not stop with him.”

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