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Friday February 3rd

UNC hosts 38th annual Martin Luther King Lecture and Awards ceremony

Keynote speaker Benjamin Crump speaks to the crowd at the 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King   Jr. awards and lecture ceremony on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023 in Hill Hall. Crump is a civil rights attorney who has represented the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, among others, as well as the residents of Flint, Michigan.
Buy Photos Keynote speaker Benjamin Crump speaks to the crowd at the 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. awards and lecture ceremony on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023 in Hill Hall. Crump is a civil rights attorney who has represented the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, among others, as well as the residents of Flint, Michigan.

“Finding our Way Forward” was the theme of UNC's 38th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture and Awards ceremony, held in Hill Hall on Wednesday. The theme represents the progress the Black community has made in healing from the last few years in America, as well as continuing the fight for racial justice.

Student Body President, Taliajah "Teddy" Vann, started the event with remarks regarding King’s teachings and legacy.

“The theme of this year's lecture, 'Finding our Way Forward' aligns perfectly with that purpose,” Vann said. “As it demonstrates the spirit of resiliency that Dr. King preached, and that we all had to embody to survive the last two years.”

Following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown and others killed by the police, the recent years have brought attention to the opposition that communities of color have faced.

“In the face of uncertainty, turmoil and fear, the Carolina community clung together and persevered," Vann said."We found our way forward."

Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Leah Cox spoke about King's strength and how his words and teachings have remained a persistent motivator for communities of color combating injustices. 

“While our world sometimes feels as if we have no direction, no ethical or honorable leaders, no democratic processes for voting policy decisions, no support for the improvement of our educational systems and of support for equitable treatment of underrepresented individuals and many and many other women, Dr. King states if you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk if you can't walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward,” Cox said.

This year’s keynote speaker was Benjamin Crump, a renowned civil rights attorney. He has represented the families of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many more in their fight to obtain justice for the murders of their loved ones. 

He has earned the name “Black America’s Attorney General” for his dedication to social justice, civil rights and equality for the Black community.

“We have a moral obligation to oppose injustice,” Crump said. “Dr. King said that you cannot call yourself a good person and see injustice and then look down the other way,” he said.

Crump said “neutrality in the face of injustice is a choice" — and that he believes it is the wrong one. 

He said no change will happen if no action is taken against these injustices, and that tackling uncomfortable conversations and confronting these issues in our own community is the first step.

He urged students moving forward to use their voices to speak up against inequality and to “speak truth to power” whenever they have an opportunity to do so.

“So many people sacrifice so much for you to be able to acquire this intellect to go out and give voice to those who have no voice - to help represent and say that there is humanity,” Crump said. “And those individuals who are not fortunate enough to be here and get this great education, those who are marginalized, victimized and disenfranchised, you have an obligation to speak truth to power on their behalf.”

In his closing remarks, Crump said citizens could not let higher powers in America use the law for evil, and that they must make sure they do right by the law and right by the people. 

Crump said when people stand up for victims of racial brutality, they are fighting to help make America a better place for all.

“What we're really doing is helping America be a great beacon of hope and justice for all the world tomorrow,” Crump said. "But what we're really doing, brothers and sisters here at the University of North Carolina, what we're really doing is helping America be America for all Americans.”

@zoefrederick12

university@dailytarheel.com

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