Keith Boykin delivered a keynote address to Eastern Michigan University during the 33rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration to a full auditorium of students, faculty, staff, administrators and community members.
"His speech was a passionate, engaging and well-informed. Keith did a phenomenal job connecting the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the present day fight for justice and equality. His words reignited why I do the work I do and reminded me there is still much work to do,” said E. Abby Davis, EMU Academic Success Project Coordinator.
He went beyond memorialization, displaying depth in his understanding of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy through presenting information and his own application of Dr. King’s principles. Keith examined Dr. King’s words to expand on ways people can use Dr. King’s teachings to navigate spaces and affect change today.
“Most often those who feel powerless have power,” said Boykin. “Once students activate they have enormous power to make a difference.”
Keith’s words stirred emotion in the audience similar to the murmur of aggreenace and approval heard listening to Dr. King’s speeches. This power struggle hit home for the audience primarily made up of college students -- an age range commonly intertwined with forming identity and discovering purpose, all while being on a campus that is still healing from the strand of racist graffiti demonstrations during the 2016-2017 school year.
“Are we doing enough to contribute to the legacy of Dr. King,” Boykin asked.
He questioned and challenged the audience to self reflect, and to be critical of how they show up in spaces.
“Dr. King was never telling us to be colorblind, however he emphasised our moral obligation to take on others issues as our own,” he said.
This practice of sharing the burden of struggle and working toward progression as one community body is a principle which resonated with the audience, especially student leader and EMU senior Desmine Robinson.
“Different minorities who are experiencing oppression should work together to fight all oppression,” said Robinson.
In his address, Boykin highlighted the present day implications of four of Dr. King’s writings and speeches: April, 1963 letter from Birmingham jail; Aug. 1963 “I have a dream speech,” delivered at the march on Washington; April 1967, “Beyond Vietnam,” speech at Riverside Church in Harlem; and lastly Dr. King’s final speech titled, "I've Been to the Mountaintop" which he delivered on April 3, 1968, at the Mason Temple in Memphis.
“I enjoyed how he used four of Dr. King’s speeches and categorized them into four themes. By doing this, he took me on a journey, comparing the racial injustices of the 1960’s to what we see today. He purposefully opened my eyes and mind to all the work we still need to do reach Dr. King’s dream of uniting us all,” said Victoria Fields, EMU senior.
In his keynote, Keith unpacked what it means to be an effective leader and impact change, which he defined as choosing love, being courageous, critically thinking and authentic communication from person to person.
“Keith drove home the point that we may be afraid at times but those who make change feel the fear and do it anyway,” said Davis.
He shared his belief that people inherently know in their heart the right thing to do, but the decision to do it is what requires courage and discernment.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but understanding your fear and acting any way. It’s easy in comfortable and convenient times to do what is right, but let's challenge ourselves when times are hard and uncomfortable to choose love,” he said.