Lesra Martin Keynote Speaker At Dewald Honors Dinner And Lecture

April 13, 2010

Mount Union College honors and Dean's List students, faculty, and members of the community alike were invited to attend the 21st annual Dewald Honors Dinner and Lecture held on November 26, originally scheduled for September 13.

 

After refreshments and dinner, Lesra Martin, a crown attorney from British Columbia, who was responsible, along with his three Canadian friends, for freeing boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter from jail, spoke to the group in the Kresge Dining Hall in the Hoover Price Campus Center.

Martin spoke of many experiences, including growing up as the second of eight kids, having the opportunity to move to Canada, and his work in freeing Carter. Until Martin was a teenager, he was admittedly illiterate, but always had the dream to be a lawyer. He shared a story about his third grade teacher, who told him that working for the New York Sanitation Department would be a more realistic job for him. Although he understands why his teacher made that comment, he never gave up on his dream.

When he was a teen, he worked at an environmental lab, and befriended three Canadians. He still reminisces about the practical jokes he would play on them, and how they would humor him into thinking that they fell for them. Eventually, they gave him the opportunity to leave his life in dangerous Bushwick, New York behind, and move with them to Canada, where he could have access to a better education. He considers his mother letting him go to be one of the most selfless things a person could ever do.

While at a used book sale in Toronto, a book caught his eye: The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to #45472, costing 25 cents. Written by Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, this was the first book he ever read. The book told Carter's account of being wrongfully imprisoned in 1966 for the murder of three New Jersey residents. Martin read the book cover to cover, and decided to write Carter a letter.

They eventually met, and their friendship led to the Martin and the Canadians working to free Carter. They won Carter's release from prison in 1985. While this book went on to change his entire life, Martin said that the book caught his eye because there was a black man on the cover.

Their mission and success in freeing Carter were depicted in the 1999 release "Hurricane", starring Denzel Washington. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Washington's portrayal of Carter, but did not win.

Martin also was the keynote speaker in the College's Convocation Series on November 27, 2001.

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