Standing behind a podium with waving hands and a booming voice, award winning speaker Jim Lucas told the story of the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
An interested crowd of students and faculty nibbling on appetizers listened quietly to Lucas’s 90-minute speech titled “Keeper of the Dream” on Jan. 24 in Alumni Hall.
Lucas opened his performance with recitations of King’s song, “If I Could Help Somebody.”
Speaking to his audience with encouragement, he said, “Help somebody in your life just as Dr. King Jr. did for his community.”
With short messages and recited passages of King’s life, Lucas showed how inspirational King was as a leader, and how he touched people’s lives. The first hour focused on introducing King and what inspired him to become a civil rights speaker.
He took the audience back to 1956 when blacks were segregated, the Rosa Parks trial and the bus boycott, which initially triggered King to get involved with his community, and to later become a civil rights leader in Birmingham, Ala.
Explaining the inequalities that black people faced in the South during the 1950’s, Lucas recited King’s very words as he argued with police during his travel to raise money for transportation needs.
“There are laws prohibiting interstate commerce and interstate travel,'” said Lucas of King’s argument.
In a confident voice, Lucas recited passages of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which followed with a brief story of King’s life before the speech.
King and his organization of leaders were busy with the logistics of the civil rights march, a demonstration of freedom, said Lucas, which forced King to write his speech only one night before the march. His performance gave the crowd a sense of what it was like to be living during the Civil Rights movement.
To conclude his performance, Lucas recited, with loud, pronounced words, the ending segment of King’s speech, “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we’re free at last!” The crowd then made a standing ovation.
Lucas, originally from Louisiana, told brief stories about his family, and how it was similar in ways to King’s life. He shared the time his father decided to vote.
“As a young boy my father called in our family to share the news,” said Lucas, “But as a consequence he lost his job that day. Many people in our community lost their lives just to try to vote.”
Lucas encouraged college students in the audience to sign up to vote, and stressed the importance of voting after seeing what blacks went through in the South.
Another story Lucas shared was being stabbed in the chest by a woman as he signed autographs for his first book in New York City. He was brought to Harlem Hospital where surgeons removed the blade that was placed inches from his heart.
“I have seen the eyes of the coming of the Lord,” said Lucas after surviving his near death experience.
Lucas finished by answering questions from the audience. He explained having a connection with the King family, and how they are aware of his work. Lucas has performed this presentation for about 15 years, traveling to universities around the nation.