Chuck D speaks at Bellevue College for MLK Day

ChuckD41On Jan. 17, Chuck D and his wife Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson spoke at Carlson Theatre to make students and staff members here at BC aware of the dreams that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had for so many years.

To start off the event, BC President Dr. David Rule made a quick speech to represent the BC student body.

His words kicked off the event with Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, otherwise known as Chuck D, an American-born rapper, author and producer. He also is a founding member of Public Enemy, which has sent him all over the world, graduated from Adelphi University in Long Island and received a degree in graphic design. Chuck D came to BC to educate students on the historical events that Dr. Martin Luther King founded and how though he may not be alive today, his legacy lives on in us all. “It is important for you all to understand that we are here in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King. It is 2013, which when I was younger, seemed like a scientific comic book. Here we are now, celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday.  I am here to [give] you colligiates props. Because no one gives you props anymore. How often do you see yourself as colligates anymore, in America? How you see yourself can come from the seed of this man,” said Chuck D.

Chuck D also stated, “Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream that his children would be judged based on their characteristics; their personality, not the color of their skin. Your insides are based on your character — you are chief designer.”

Along side Chuck D was his wife, Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “ I wanted to say first off, it is really nice to be in front of such a diverse crowd,” said Johnson. We take for granted and don’t realize that we made this happen. The government didn’t give us anything-we fought and died for this. Dr. Martin Luther King fought for us because racism does not hurt one group of people, it hurts all of us.” Johnson also stated, “No one really knows how revolutionary Martin Luther King was. We all believe in justice, social justice, and equality. I can say this to you because we have a diverse crowd. But he was 39 years old when he was assassinated. Can you imagine getting all that he did, done in 39 years?”

“It seems these days that history is revoked from us. And so, we don’t feel the need to study it. We don’t know what kind of revolution it was then; King knew. He was a smart man because he researched everything. He knew what was happening all over the world, not just in the south in the ‘60s but in Nigeria and Haiti.  Black people were not even allowed to vote down in Memphis in the 1960’s. If you were Black and tried to vote you might just get lynched. People we killed for that. And Dr. King knew, he knew this.”

Dr. Johnson was adamant  about this history of Dr. Martin Luther King and how 50 years later if he was still alive today, how would he view society now? “Those stories get lost when we talk about Martin Luther King and the struggle they went through and used television as a source to get through to everyone and show the world – City officials hosed down African Americans in the streets. Did any of you know that those hoses are strong enough to take bark off of trees? They were being sprayed down in the streets and everyone seeing this, even over in Nigeria, what are you teaching your kids down in Memphis? Martin Luther King knew back then that he could not win this alone. These stories get lost about Dr. Martin Luther King. I encourage my students to talk about things because we are so afraid not to. We are so afraid of arguing. I encourage my students to argue, I tell to them let’s work this out. As long as they don’t have anything deliberately discriminatory to say, say what you really feel. Because I am not afraid, I respect you enough to ask you, why do you feel that?  We are too scared to argue with the public and say how we really feel.  King was not afraid.  We are too afraid we are going to say something wrong. If it is unjust speak up!”

Johnson made her final point and stated, “We blame ourselves. Like many victims of abuse we blame ourselves for the fear of coming out and saying things, we don’t trust our hearts, or ourselves for being an intellect. Are out hearts in the right place and do we have enough to fortitude to get shut down and bring it up again. People don’t want to argue and wants to agree and resolve partly we are just so strung out and don’t want any social awkwardness-we rather text than call. We can’t even look at each other in the eyes? What’s that about?”

“The reason I say this is because popular media say that it is our fault that we can’t afford school, or just in the amount the time my students have been in school their tuition has tripled. They are saying we are lazy, we have nothing to contribute to this world….People don’t understand what it is like for having a protracted struggle.  Anything that is worth fighting for, they fought for it together. We have something to learn from that and from patience,” said Johnson.