How to get through perilous times

Five questions and quotes you may have missed from the 25th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Convocation

By Ashleigh Aldridge  |  Photos by Mailyse Dejesus, '20
Anthea Butler, Ph.D., stands behind a podium as she shares images from the Charlottesville, VA protests.

Anthea Butler, Ph.D., associate professor of religious studies and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania delivers her lecture at the 25th Annual MLK Convocation.

In a room filled with members of the Loyola University Maryland community and the Baltimore community, the University hosted its 25th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Convocation on Jan. 15, honoring the life and legacy of the slain civil rights icon and activist on what would have been his 89th birthday.

An annual event, the convocation is designed to offer Loyola and the greater Baltimore community a chance to take a closer look at race and racial justice in America.

This year’s speaker, Anthea Butler, Ph.D., associate professor of religious studies and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania delivered her lecture, “From Selma to Charlottsville: How to confront and defeat racism in perilous times.” A Catholic herself, Butler’s lecture focused on the role religion and the Church played in the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965, the Charlottesville, Va., protests in 2017, politics, and the current state of racial justice and injustice in America.

One question in particular seemed to resonate with many audience members: What is the role of the Catholic Church in the fight for racial justice and equality?

Through a series of videos and a history of the Church’s involvement in the civil rights movement, Butler emphasized the importance of, not only the Church, but each individual’s responsibility to address and combat racism on their jobs, in the Church, and even within their families.

As Butler challenged the audience to consider their personal charge to fight racism in America, she offered several thoughts for them to consider. Here are five:

1. “Will we stand on the side of justice or will we stand on the side of the oppressor?”

Butler continued, saying there is no gray area for where we are today, urging that people must choose a side and decide whether they will be part of the “beloved community that wants to make this world a better place or the selfish community that builds up structures of race, ethnicity, and power.”

2. “We don’t like to call racism a sin; we call it an -ism.”

Butler emphasized that it was the witness of clergy members during the Selma to Montgomery march that gave the movement a moral core, a core that was a direct contrast to the sin of racism and bigotry. After marchers were beaten during the infamous “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, King issued a call for clergy members to travel to the city in rural Alabama to participate in a second march. Members of clergy showed up in large numbers. Nuns and priests later led other marches in Selma and across the country in support of the movement.

3. “Racism threatens our community and our very way of life.”

Butler added that racism is costly, taking days off of the lives of those who are subjected to racism on a daily basis, reminding of the side effects racism and inequality can cause to one’s health.

4. “Now is the time. We don’t have tomorrow. We’ve barely got today.”

Butler showed a short clip of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in 1963. His words then, as Butler stressed, speak to the urgency of addressing and correcting the issues of race and racial justice, in particular the political climate in America today. Butler urged audience members to be active in the political process and even encouraged some to run for political office.

5. “The moral arc of the universe is not going to bend unless we get on it.”

Butler ended her lecture by charging the audience to get on the arc, reminding them that the proverbial structure will only bend under the weight of those who choose to step up. This statement was met with a standing ovation.

What quotes or questions resonated with you? Comment below.

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