Students, faculty and staff were given the opportunity to learn about two men, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, who spearheaded different eras of the Civil Rights Movement in American history on Thursday, dispelling misconceptions the movement.
The offices of Student Affairs and Undergraduate Affairs sponsored a trip to the New Hope Baptist Church in Denver for the “Martin and Malcolm: One Vision-Two Voices” presentation.
The production sponsored by Colorado Humanities featured portrayals of King and Malcolm X by Bill Grimmette and Charles Everett Pace respectively.
The presentation began in the United States in 1965, with a tense mood surrounding the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X explaining his involvement during this time and King following shortly after with a speech.
Grimmette is a motivational storyteller who writes, directs, acts and speaks on prominent characters throughout American history.
Pace worked with the United States Information Agency conducting performance-based public diplomacy work in nine countries across Africa.
In the interactive performance, King and Malcolm X discussed their differing viewpoints and strategies surrounding the topics of integration, desegregation, racial equality, reconciling people and utilizing a non-violent approach to the Civil Rights Movement.
“The American negro has no rational alternative to violence,” King said. “John F. Kennedy said, ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make a violent revolution inevitable.'”
King, a product of a middle class upbringing, believed in equality, desegregation and non-violent direct action, while Malcolm X preached of separation.
“The key is separation,” Malcolm X said. “A white man is more scared of separation than of integration.”
After the presentation, the speakers opened the floor for audience questions.
When asked how they would want future generations to think of the Civil Rights Movement, King suggested we don’t describe what we did, but instead project yourself where you want to be.
“Don’t spend a moment talking about what I did, talk about what you want because America can be,” he said. “If you can’t find something you are willing to die for then life is not worth living.”
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper attended the performance to recognize “heroes” who have worked over the years to promote democracy in Colorado, increase understanding of democratic ideals and promote education and the struggles that have shaped our society.
Reverend James Peter, who worked with King in the South before serving as the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church and Honorable Wilma Webb, who fought for four years to get Colorado to adopt the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, honored at the event for their work for civil rights.
“In their reach [King and Malcolm X] had an immeasurable impact on this country and the whole world,” Hickenlooper said. “The journey towards justice is still very much alive, alive in all of us.”
A letter to the CSU community drafted by Blanche Hughes, vice president for Student Affairs and Alan Lamborn, vice provost for Undergraduate Affairs said of the civil rights leaders, “Their religious leadership and political action combined is a vision for racial justice, a call for social and economic equality and human rights.”
Hughes initially wanted to bring the program to Colorado State University, but wasn’t able to due to the amount of programs already planned.
“We thought the program was so important for the historic part of the experience, but with everything going on we decided to bring students down [to Denver], something we don’t normally do,” Hughes said.
Staff writer Kayla Huddleston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.