By Alveena Siddiqi, News Reporter
After saying how the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s relevance is present in movements like Black lives matter, LGBTQ rights, the “Me Too” movement, and the changing of DACA, the Rev. L Bernard Jakes received a standing ovation on Wednesday, Feb. 21.
In his lecture “Is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 20th Century Voice Relevant in the 21st Century?” Jakes integrated excerpts from King’s speeches to address the nation’s current social and political climate that mirror circumstances during King’s life.
“‘It is a time of double talk, when men in high places have a high blood pressure of deceptive rhetoric and an anema of concrete performance. We cry out against welfare handouts to the poor, but generously approve an oil-depletion allowance to make the rich, richer’,” he quoted.
“Sounds familiar?” he asked the audience.
About the current government administration, Jakes added: “We are living in a time when people wish to make America great in word but dastardly in deed.”
Jakes also mentioned the role of King’s voice in an issue of recent relevance - the fight by “concerned citizens” and students for gun regulation.
In an interview with The Leader, Jakes, who has previously advised Illinois lawmakers on gun policy, argued that the same racial politics present in King’s life have played a significant role in the inability of the 21st century U.S. government to change gun laws, even after events targeting children such as Sandy Hook.
“With Sandy Hook, one, it was looked at as an isolated incident, and two, we had a Black President. There was no way this country was going to allow a Black president to change the laws that would affect gun control,” he said. “The NRA wasn’t having it.”
“But from Sandy Hook to now, it’s becoming commonplace,” Jakes continued. “When you have 17 or 18 shootings in schools by [Feb. 20], it’s a projection of worse things to come.”
During his post-lecture question and answer session, Jakes also offered advice to EC student activists and how to engage those who deny modern relevance of poverty, disenfranchisement and oppression of black people in America.
“[...] In order to do it from a practical standpoint, get in your vehicle. You don’t even have to drive to Chicago, drive to Maywood. You don’t even have to drive to Maywood, talk to some of the students here at this college,” he said. “Find a student, doesn't have to be a person of color, that is living in poverty, that is homeless and goes to school. [Mention] that the conversation has come up about possibly starting a food pantry on campus, because there are so many students on this campus that are devoid of food.”