ORONO, Maine — Remembering the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is about more than having dialogue, it’s about “getting out of your seats and taking action,” according to the keynote speaker at a Monday breakfast commemorating King’s life and memory.
The Rev. Forrest Pritchett, a professor at New Jersey’s Seton Hall University, delivered the keynote. He also serves as program director for the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Program and the school.
He recalled his college days in Delaware, marching with friends as part of the civil rights movement.
“We had so much fear in us, we knew it might be the last time we’d see each other alive,” he said.
He quoted South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, who said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
“In every era, God gives us chosen men and women to serve his will,” Pritchett said.
People such as Mandela and Malala Yousafzai — a Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban in October 2012 for promoting women’s education but continues her advocacy — are continuing King’s legacy in the biggest way possible, he said.
“Don’t let your circumstances determine your destiny, only God can do that,” Pritchett said. “Any unrighteousness will fall under the power of God.”
James Varner of the Maine Human Rights Coalition fought tears as he talked about attending King’s funeral in Atlanta in 1968, one of three held in the wake of his assassination.
“We lost a great light in this world, a light for good, a light for love and a light for helping one another,” he said, adding that he hoped the music and discussion at the event would help attendees “recharge their love batteries.”
He asked each person to form a plan of how they would carry on King’s mission in their own way.
Last year, there was no Martin Luther Jr. Day breakfast at the university. Traditionally, the Greater Bangor Area NAACP has hosted breakfasts, but last year’s event didn’t happen because the group ran out of time to organize it, according to NAACP officials.
The Maine Human Rights Coalition took over the breakfast planning this year.
Monday afternoon, UMaine hosted its own series of events in collaboration with the NAACP to commemorate King’s life.
Those events started at 12:30 p.m. when members of the Black Student Union led participants on a march starting at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Memorial Plaza.
Representatives of the university, its multicultural center and the Bangor area NAACP spoke on King’s legacy and participated in a panel discussion.