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Hemingway urges students to act on the duty of dreams

Published: January 24, 2013
Section: Featured, News


To celebrate the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. students gathered in the SCC Theater on Monday evening for spoken word poetry, song, dance and reflection, which echoed the theme of “The Duty of a Dream,” in Brandeis’ eighth annual memorial. Herman Hemingway ’53, a friend of King and the first black man to graduate from Brandeis, presented the keynote address, reminding students to celebrate Dr. King’s birth.

“I am here this evening to remind you of your debt to both Dr. King and to those whose rights are still being violated in this country,” Hemingway said.

He also asked the audience to take action to honor the dreams of King and of themselves: “We are dreamers but we are also prepared to act!”

Associate Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams encouraged the packed theater of community members to honor King by acting upon their dreams and working today to fight against injustice.

In his opening remarks, Adams said that the theme of the evening was based on four King quotes, one of which was, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Continuing to quote King, he said, “Someone must have sense in this world, sense enough to meet hate with love and physical force with soul force.”

In his keynote address, Hemingway discussed his friendship with King, which began when King, an ordained minister and Ph.D. student at Boston University, was pledging an undergraduate fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. Although the brothers were at first unsure as to why a mature adult such as King would be pledging a fraternity, Hemingway thought he had determined the answer. He described King as being “cloaked in dignity,” but thought that he joined the younger group because he felt he needed more time to grow and learn. King graduated from college when he was only 19 years old.

Hemingway encouraged students to act to preserve civil rights by taking advantage of their right to vote and to serve on a jury when asked. “Improper jury decisions are because of those serving,” he said. “The ability to practice these tools of power in the jury are the most effective opponents to unfair and improper jury decisions in which people of color are wrongly convicted and sentenced to prison.”

He advised the audience to fight for due process, which “starts with respect for our fellow men, or as King would have put it, ‘Love for our neighbor.”

“So regardless of whether you agree with that person or not, treat that person with respect,” he said. Hemingway told the audience that they must seek justice from institutions, because although it is important to have dreams, one must also be prepared to act upon their beliefs and make an effort to make the world a more just place. He stressed the importance of truth in King’s messages, mentioning Gandhi’s use of “satyagraha,” meaning “insistence of truth” to characterize nonviolent resistance.

Joking that King had grown from 5’6” to more than 30 feet tall, referencing the height of the statue in Washington, D.C., Hemingway reminded the audience that each person can make a difference. He wanted people to preserve the King legacy of love, dedication and sacrifice by acting upon the debt owed to him and to the nation. “I have learned much from the experiences of Dr. King. First, to have the courage to be agents of change,” he said.

The colors of the performances reinforced the theme of King’s message of nonviolence. Red light on stage, changing to orange, imitated the love King asked all to show their neighbors and enemies. MLK Scholar Amanda Pereira ’15 performed one of King’s sermons, telling the audience that the key was “loving your enemies.” She mentioned different types of love, from the romantic type of love, to the reciprocal love and finally ‘agape:’ “It is a love that seeks nothing in return.” King’s words emphasized the power of unconditional love, and that love can be redemptive as well as creative, rather than being destructive, she said. He encouraged his listeners to see the good in their enemies, and when they wanted to make a change in the world, to work to defeat systems rather than individuals.

Other performances highlighted the compatibility of different groups working together to achieve a common goal. “Uniquely Kaotic,” a combination of So Unique Step Team and Kaos Kids, choreographed a dance where both groups shared the stage. Eliana Light ’12 used poetry to speak up against intolerance, telling the story of a Rabbi and Reverend who worked together to secure civil rights for all people, regardless of the differences between them. She said, “These two men … remain for us as symbols of what we stand to lose when we forget our moral compass.”

Speaking about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary last month, Amanda Dryer ’13 performed a poem about our “call to change: ammunition into ambition.”

“Will we put down our guns for justice, for freedom, for change, for love will find a way,” she said.