DURHAM – An observance at Duke University on Sunday meant to honor Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. ended up as a platform to bash North Carolina Republicans and their reform policies.
The event, held inside a chapel at Duke University, began with Duke student and president of the campus Black Student Alliance Marcus Benning citing Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” to criticize the Republican-controlled state Assembly.
“I know why the caged bird sings,” he said. “Because when institutions like the one in Raleigh put up restrictive laws, we begin to sing and fight back.”
Benning’s remarks were in reference to the state’s “Moral Monday” movement, large and disruptive civil disobedience demonstrations at the statehouse, where liberal activists decried the Republican-held majority and its approval of issues such as voter-ID laws and fiscal responsibility on public education.
Benning, during his comments, lamented that new abortion laws impeded social progress, and claimed that needed social reforms include: more Planned Parenthoods, repealing voter ID laws, and special rights for undocumented college students.
Next up was Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP’s outgoing national president, who tried to insult Republican Governor Pat McCrory by comparing him to Kirk Fordice, who was famously sued for his plan to close Historically Black Colleges and turn one into a prison.
Jealous went on to suggest Republican-led reforms in North Carolina are the equivalent to why the Civil Rights movement was launched, saying conservative politicians have hijacked the state.
“This state has put the struggle on the map,” he said. “I hope that you go the march on the 8th. (The) session starts again. The reality is there’s already a silent majority in this state that believes in justice and believes in rights and believes what’s happening is (Republicans are) taking us back when we need to go forward.”
The speech, which drew a crowd of about 1,000, was filled with leaders in the Duke and Durham community who cheered and clapped in agreement throughout the entire event. Notable guests included Duke President Richard Brodhead; Kevin Sowers, president of the Duke University Hospitals; and many locally elected officials.
Jealous, in his speech, also touched on his involvement in civil rights efforts, including his fight against the closing of Historically Black Colleges in Mississippi and his involvement with Amnesty International, which works to end the death penalty.
“You can’t be pro-life and pro-death,” he said. “We like to form these coalitions to end the death penalty. By finding these types of coalitions, like the ones we see in this state, we can affect change.”
College Fix contributor Ben Smith is a student at UNC Chapel Hill.
IMAGE: Chris Gold NY/Flickr