Dream is upheld

  Hundreds of people filled Ira Allen Chapel on Jan. 24 for “An evening with Martin and Langston,” an event featuring actor and director Felix Justice and actor Danny Glover, which honored the lives and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Langston Hughes. Glover has been a longtime champion of civil rights. While attending San Francisco State University, he was an active member of a five-month long student protest, the longest in history, which culminated in the creation of the first School of Ethnic Studies in the United States. In addition to his support of civil rights, Glover has been an outspoken advocate of union workers, renewable energy and the Occupy movement, and has been critical of the invasion of Iraq, capital punishment and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Glover and Justice were invited to the campus as part of UVM’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration, sponsored by the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer. Marie Waterworth, assistant to Chief Diversity Officer Wanda Heading-Grant, said the weeklong celebration is intended “to honor Dr. King’s principles of community service and humanitarianism.” Waterworth said many had recommended Glover and Justice, and that her office decided on the duo because their “work with civil rights and equity issues seemed fitting with [UVM’s] college campus.” Other events include “curriculum opportunities” through partnerships with “faculty and academic departments,” according to Waterworth. Unity, tolerance and progress were themes of the evening, expressed through singing, oration and acting. Both keynote performances implied a similar sense of inspired solidarity for a better tomorrow. Justice delivered an impassioned rendition of Dr. King’s famed final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” King’s words called on his fellow citizens to seek unity through nonviolence in the face of economic inequality and divisive intolerance — conditions uncannily similar to those of contemporary society. Justice said he was inspired by this particular speech because it epitomized King’s “greater moral courage.” He maintained his dignity and courage despite being aware of his impending death, and took a stand against the then-popular Vietnam War, which elicited criticism from his “natural enemies and friends,” according to Justice. Glover’s lively and invigorated performance presented a snapshot of the life and times for African Americans during the 20th century through the lens of Langston Hughes. Some of Hughes’ more popular works, including “Let America be America Again” and “Dream Deferred,” were fused together in a depiction of challenging times in a country that had digressed from its original promises and foundational objectives. Glover and Justice fielded questions from the crowd following their performances on such topics as their perception of King’s thoughts on the Occupy movement and voting, and whether they believed genuine equality is attainable in the near future. Both expressed concern about the “de-emphasis on the sense of participation” among young people in the context of making progress toward shared goals. They said that they are cautiously optimistic about the Occupy movement, but Justice noted that he does not anticipate full equality happening in his lifetime. Justice had high praise for Burlington, however. In a culture searching for equality and tolerance, Justice said that the “careful thinkers and compassionate hearts” that comprise Burlington serve as a “beacon of light for sanity.”