Peninsula College speaker urges audience to ‘step up’ into legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
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In his speech Thursday honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bellevue College professor Eric Davis urged his Peninsula College Little Theater audience members to find their own ways to change society for the better. — Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — In a speech honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Eric Davis didn’t linger long on the past.

After all, Davis asked, which is bigger: the windshield or the rear-view mirror?

“We have got to start looking forward,” he told his Peninsula College Little Theater audience during Thursday’s Studium Generale program.

“I need you to step up,” into the light of King’s legacy, Davis added.

A professor of popular culture and the sociology of sport at Bellevue College, Davis delivered Peninsula College’s annual lecture honoring King, who would have been 85 years old this Wednesday.

Before showing a video of hip-hop recording artist Lupe Fiasco, he asked his audience — students, college staff and other community members — if they could “handle this.”

Hearing an emphatic yes, he started the video, which he called “a deep critique” of hip-hop music.

In it, Fiasco sings about men and women, boys and girls, all swept up in pop-culture messages about money and sex. Little girls try to be sexy while boys gaze up, wide-eyed, at rappers posing.

“I show this video every quarter, four or five times,” Davis said afterward. “It’s terribly disturbing.”

This music’s message is that “all you are is what you look like,” said Davis, and a strong black man is one who swaggers around with his pants sagging.

That has nothing to do with me, Davis said.

“For me, an authentic strong black man is Dr. King,” as well as Davis’ own father, whom he buried in December.

“You’ve got to stop buying that stuff,” Davis said of the hip-hop portrayed in the video.

“That mess up there” on the screen, “that’s buffoonery.”

Each person in this theater, Davis added, can turn away from such messages — and bring about positive change.

Yes, there are those who are privileged in our society and those who are at a disadvantage. But people from both groups, throughout history, have stepped up to address a social wrong.

Many have been successful in their efforts to right the wrongs; it’s an ongoing process that’s part of King’s legacy, Davis believes.

Don’t numb your brain with chemicals or television, he said.

“Whatever you take from today, whatever made you think, whatever inspired you to make some changes in society,” Davis said, “go do it.”

At the close of his speech, the professor offered an alternative to the hip-hop artists he sees as harmful to our ears.

Michael Franti, the rock-reggae-funk-jazz artist born to a white mother and a black and Native American father, sings often about peace and justice.

In his final entreaty about giving of oneself for a better future, Davis quoted his song “Pray for Grace”:

So I live to give somethin’ that can live on

Like the way you hum a song when the music’s gone

Like the warmth of the sand when the sun goes down.

With that, Davis stepped down from the stage and took a long drink of water.

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 12. 2014 7:27PM
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