Na’im Akbar Presents Martin Luther King Jr. Keynote Address at Mount Union College
January 18, 2008
Author and orator Dr. Na’im Akbar served as the keynote speaker at Mount Union College in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Thursday, January 17 in the Mount Union Theatre.
“Please don’t forget that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was just not a black hero, but an American hero of the highest possible form,” said Akbar.
Akbar believes that if it wasn’t for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all of his contributions to the Civil Rights movement, there would not be a woman or a man of African decent running for president in the upcoming election. If it wasn’t for him, they would never have had the opportunity to be a part of the decision process.
Although Akbar is fully aware that America isn’t the same America that it was 40 years ago, he also realizes that America isn’t living up to all that it can be. America has changed in some ways; in victories, unexpected losses and collateral damage.
“We as Americans have lost much of that dream that Martin Luther King Jr. had tried to express,” said Akbar.
Akbar then challenged the audience with the question “Is America integrated?”
He continued by asking the audience members if they believe America is integrated simply because we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month or have parades on January 25 and multicultural departments at colleges and universities around the country. Then he asked “Are we integrated because courses are offered in African American studies?
“We thought that we had changed,” Akbar added. “Then along came Hurricane Katrina that took the mask off the issue of poverty. Poverty is still an underlying issue. We watched people being stripped of their dignity and belongings.”
Akbar believes that, as a country, we don’t see the reality of the poor black women trying to raise a family alone in Cleveland, Cincinnati and other cities around the world. He believes poverty still comes in a predictable form - color. Despite the NBA, NFL, Oprah Winfrey and musical artists, Akbar said that America still has not changed the reality of the predictable disadvantage of color.
“It is still the same as it was on the plantation,” he said. “Another loss, another paradox.
“We thought we had been transformed,” he added. “But we didn’t exemplify the real transformation that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to articulate. We have lost our willingness to stand up and say, ‘No! America you aren’t being all that you can be.’”
Recognized as one of the great thinkers and orators of our time, Akbar was the recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Scholar Award at Florida State University. Currently a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Florida State, he has served as president of the National Association of Black Psychologists, on the editorial board of the Journal of Black Studies and as associate editor of the Journal of Black Psychology. The author of Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery, The Community of Self, Visions for Black Men and Know Thyself, Akbar is also the recipient of scores of plaques and awards.
More activities celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will take place at Mount Union on Monday, January 21, including the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Luncheon and Awards Ceremony featuring speaker Renee Powell, member of the LPGA.