Duke University Chapel honored the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Sunday, with its annual service. This year, the keynote speaker was North Carolina’s most prominent living civil rights activist, in King’s tradition.
The Rev. William Barber entered Duke Chapel dancing, before addressing a packed audience on Sunday afternoon. How could he not dance just a little bit, as he passed through a joyful routine by the Collage Dance Company?
When it was his turn behind the podium to deliver the keynote address for the annual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, he assured the audience that the work King started back in the 1960s is still ongoing, right here in North Carolina.
“The Forward Together movement is no ways tired,” said Barber. “When we left Raleigh, we’ve been moving all over the state.”
Barber is president of the North Carolina NAACP, the largest chapter in the south, and the second largest in the U.S.
During his one-hour, eight-minute speech, Barber listed a number of reasons that organization is so active here, as well the Forward Together movement of the Moral Monday protests at the state legislature.
“In North Carolina, over 1.6 million live in poverty, and that’s just using the limited poverty standard, and not the living wage standard” said Barber. “And 600,000 of them are children.”
Those Moral Monday protests in Raleigh are set to resume on January 28.
Barber also criticized the refusal of the Republican governor and legislative leadership, so far, to expand Medicaid in the state.
And he compared some of the insults directed at President Obama to the coded race language used by politicians during the old “southern strategy” days. When Barber mentioned the term “food stamp president” in particular, many in the audience groaned.
Barber was preceded at the podium by Duke University Hospital President Kevin Sowers; Durham Mayor Bill Bell; and Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead.
There were tributes paid throughout to the late scholar and activist John Hope Franklin, who would have turned 100 years old on Jan. 2.
Brodhead mentioned that Franklin researched his book “From Slavery to Freedom” at Duke University Library, during a time when racial barriers prevented him from joining the faculty.
There was a reference to the recent controversy regarding a planned call to Muslim prayer from Duke’s chapel tower, which was canceled after threats. Ali Bootwala, a representative of the Muslim Student Association, and Rachel Fraade, a representative of the Jewish Student Union, lit a candle for peace, hope, and justice together.
Bootwala said that “hate cannot be put out by hate — only love can do that.”