Monday MLK speaker challenges audience to write own book

Hatchett signs books.
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Hatchett signs books.
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The first keynote speaker for Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week brought the audience to its feet with a message of making a difference and building King’s "beloved community."

Judge Glenda Hatchett spoke before a standing-room crowd in the Kirkhof Center January 21. Hatchett has a syndicated TV show, “Judge Hatchett,” and serves as national spokesperson for Court Appointed Special Advocates. Hatchett said as a child growing up in Atlanta, she took piano lessons with King’s young children.

“I didn’t know he was this famous person,” Hatchett said. “I later learned that their daddy was a man who God sent to the world on this journey.”

Hatchett stressed that the country’s leaders are not following King’s mission of building a beloved community. She cited Michigan statistics in which 24 percent of children live in poverty, nearly 11 percent in extreme poverty. Hatchett drew a connecting line from poverty to prison, stating that people who live in poverty are three times more likely to have a criminal record.

“We have got to break this generational cycle. We can do better,” she said. “You cannot fix it unless you understand it. Where is that beloved community King talked about?”

She issued a challenge to audience members, the same challenge her father gave to her when she was in the first grade. Hatchett said in her first-grade classroom, she had a book with ripped pages. She asked her teacher for a new book only to be told, “Colored children don’t get new books.”

An avid young reader, she told her father that he needed to speak to someone who would get her a new book. “My father said, ‘You’re not going to get a new book. You have to write your own.’”

All of Monday’s social justice activities were well-attended. Highlights included morning and afternoon sessions of upcycling and making crafts for shelters. A panel discussion in the afternoon drew about 60 people, who listened and participated in discussions about “America in the Age of Obama.”

More than 400 people attended a free luncheon and watched President Obama’s inauguration in the Kirkhof Center. A highlight of the luncheon was a presentation by sixth-grader NasCierra Sims, from Muskegon. NasCierra recited King’s “I Have a Dream” speech with confidence and to a tee.

MLK events will continue Thursday, January 24, with a second keynote presentation from Majora Carter at 5 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center, Grand River Room. That presentation will be simulcast to the Eberhard Center and Meijer Holland Campus. Visit www.gvsu.edu/mlk for details.