Dr. Bernard Franklin speaks in recognition of Black History Month
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 00:02
Dr. Bernard Franklin, highly regarded urban rights leader and one of Kansas City’s most influential African Americans, spoke to about 15 people in the Hughes-Trigg Ballroom Tuesday about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s character and legacy.
As part of a day-long lecture series honoring Black History Month, Franklin’s fascination with Dr. King’s brilliance, fearlessness and sacrifice stand out from the traditional tale of his civil rights accomplishments.
“This is not just some guy we gave a holiday to,” Franklin said. “This is a man who stepped right into the midst of hell to defend a group of people who in many cases were not given equal opportunity.”
Impressed by Dr. King’s demand for change as a 25-year-old African American in deeply segregated Montgomery, Ala., Franklin tried to understand how the famous civil rights leader found the nerve to confront hatred.
“How could you walk into that and with such courage and such conviction, but he did, he continued to,” Franklin said, as disturbing images of executed African-American men hanging from trees projected on the screen.
While Dr. King dedicated his life to rallying support and fighting for equality, Franklin believes today’s society fails to stand up against racial discrimination.
Intertwining the civil right leader’s rhetoric with his own, Franklin warned about the silence of bystanders.
“We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends … your silence on my behalf is deafening,” Franklin said.
He urged the crowd to stand up for him when he is not present to defend himself.
Franklin attributes the silence of today’s generation to the difference of living well and dying well.
In his opinion, Dr. King died well because a young man who’s from the north and risks his life to fight for racial equality is only worried about leaving behind a legacy. Today, according to Franklin, people are more concerned with living well and building bigger lifestyles than bigger legacies.
As the floor opened up to questions, Ray Jordan, coordinator of the Civil Rights Pilgrimage Ray, questioned Dr. King’s admiration of good samaritans but his hesitance to be one. Franklin responded by addressing the role of charity and justice as a tool for fighting racial discrimination.
Audience member Simone Daneille asked for advice on how to change people’s perceptions and notions of racial discrimination.
“The men in my life have a history of what we’ve lived, so I have this passion to say I know black men are more than this. And I know there’s something I need to do,” Daneille said.
Franklin encouraged Daneille to tear down the notion that “black men are broken” and explained the importance of being open to help instead of looking for it.