Voices from the Past



“My beloved friends, I appear before you tonight on this bleak midnight in Memphis with boundless gratitude for your presence, and in humility-and with a renewed faith in the miraculous healing power of love.”These words of welcome, spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. almost half a century ago, were brought to life recently by actor Felix Justice in a performance entitled “An Evening with Martin and Langston.” Justice collaborated in the performance with famed television and film star Danny Glover. With Glover portraying Langston Hughes and Justice as Dr. King, the two put on a spectacular performance open to all members of the Colgate community. The event was sponsored by Colgate’s Brothers organization.”The two actors were brought to campus for a variety of reasons,” First-Lieutenant of Brothers Henoch Derbew said. “Brothers brought Mr. Glover and Mr. Justice to Colgate because we wanted to maintain the high standard we set for bringing in great speakers. We felt that these gentlemen were two of the great men of color in our world today; we felt that these two would live up to people we had brought up before like Jesse Jackson and Spike Lee, and they certainly did.”Bringing speakers such as Glover and Justice to campus helps to open the community to intellectual discussion.”These events bring something non-traditional to Colgate,” President of the African-American Student Alliance and Senator-at-Large Rodney Mason said. “They expose students to culture and histories of people who are different than them. These events also foster environments for open intellectual discussion that enhance the intellectual environment at Colgate.”Justice reenacted Dr. King’s words with passionate fervor, impressing those in the audience. His skillful adaptation of Dr. King should not be surprising, as Justice has worked extensively in theater and as a director. He highlighted several issues African Americans encountered during the civil rights movement. By using King’s words, he orated on the importance of civil disobedience.”I am convinced that the use of violence…is both impractical and immoral,” he said. “Violent retribution is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent, rather than win his understanding and friendship.”Justice’s performance was not only a reminder of the difficulties that African Americans had to face in America’s overtly racist past, but it also reminded audience members that King’s teachings are still very relevant today. “I wanted to see if I could find some similarities and some parallels with what was happening in 1964 and now,” Justice said.Perhaps that is why he chose to recite this excerpt from one of Dr. King’s speeches: “Our national leaders – as I stand here tonight – somehow confuse their military and economic power with moral authority. But they are mistaken in that belief … It is our arrogance and our hubris that says to us that we – somehow – have some kind of divine and messianic mission in the world, to police the whole world … It is our arrogance and our hubris which makes us claim to want to export American-style freedom and democracy around the world, when American-style freedom and democracy has yet to arrive on these shores.”Glover’s performance was equally stunning. He has achieved worldwide fame from acting in several very well-known films such as the Academy Award-winning “Places in the Heart” and “The Color Purple.” Glover read many poems including “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “The Weary Blues,” and “Birmingham Sunday.” Before he began reciting the poetry of Langston Hughes, however, Glover gave a few words of encouragement and admiration to the Brothers organization.”I like the idea of ‘men of color,'” Glover said. “When I was in the university, even though we had a very strong relationship with the Hispanic-Latino community and the Asian-American community, we had our own separate thing,” he said. “But the idea of ‘men in color’ can cross all those lines … The beauty of coming together is that you are able to discuss and have a discourse … about common problems and common issues.””One of the purposes of Brothers,” Mason said, “is to make the Colgate campus aware of the issues that men of color are challenged to face, and to also relate to Colgate the achievements of men of color in global history.”Derbew called the event a success. “We had heard about the great reviews of Mr. Justice and Mr. Glover’s two-man play and we felt that this would be the perfect fit for our main event this year,” he said. “The duo performed extremely well. The people who we talked to after the performance were very pleased and enthusiastic and those who could not attend regretted that they weren’t able to make it. I personally enjoyed the emotion that each actor provided, especially Mr. Justice. He did a very strong rendition of the speech and I think that everyone in attendance could somehow feel the spirit of Dr. King in his words.”At the end of the event, students were able to ask questions of Glover and Justice and in a fitting conclusion, they were made honorary members of the Brothers organization. Glover’s parting words were in the form of a request.

“Let me congratulate all the young people who became a part of the political process, who decided to be a part of the solution as opposed to the problem … Democracy doesn’t work without us all being informed; you can’t just go with the program. You’re going to have to ask questions – that’s your mandate,” he said.