Dr. Reverend Eric Shaw, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Troy, visited the campus on Feb. 4 as part of Hudson Valley’s Voices Library Lectures Series to discuss the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as contemporary racial struggles.
Black and Latino Student Union president Elijah Pore introduced Shaw. “Today’s event kicks off the ‘Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle’ program. … For me, the ‘Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle’ is a time for reflection because 150 years ago, the Emancipation Proclamation was passed. With that being said, we should always go back to understand the ideas and knowledge that has brought us together culturally and racially,” said Pore.
Shaw started by speaking of Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and of its current relevance. “We consider progress has been made socially, economically, politically, but at a cost of the blood of freedom fighters that preceded us, the relentless tenacity of grassroots soldiers across ethnicity, gender, denomination or affiliation, men, women, youth, college students, whip-scarred backs and hosed-down bodies trampled in the streets so that generations after could pass through doors of educational institutions, political offices, and become employed,” said Shaw.
Shaw told the audience that people had a right to stand their moral ground in the face of discrimination. “As long as African-Americans, who make up 12% of the population, yet 44% of the prison population, as long as cold terms and racial profiling exists, as long as the school-to-prison pipeline is flowing, while our children are funnelled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems, we have an unfinished agenda,” said Shaw.
“Friends, I am certain that we could hear the blood of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, crying from the streets, we still have an unfinished agenda, which encompasses the social, economic, and political issues of our time,” said Shaw.
Shaw said that the time was right for students and community members to speak up and act upon injustices. He discussed the four steps in non-violent campaigns, as outlined in Dr. King’s letter: discovery of injustice, bilateral negotiation in good faith, self-purification, and direct action.
Dr. King wrote, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”
“Dr. King would tell us today, keep on fighting the good fight of faith. Don’t be weary, you will reap a harvest,” said Shaw.
Shaw ended his speech on a hopeful note with a quote from Dr. King: “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
Following the talk, campus minister Cylon George invited students to participate in a Feb. 11 organizational meeting hosted by the the Interfaith Troy Clergy Fellowship to discuss racially charged incidents that have been prominently reported and debated across the country and in our city during the past year. The Fellowship aims to hold one or more events in April to foster conversation toward creating a safer and more welcoming city.
The Student Activities Office provided Hudson Valley students who attended the program a free ticket to see the movie Selma at Regal Cinemas.