MLK Lecture Keynote Speaker Joy-Ann Reid Shares Insights on the Past, Present, and Future of Nonviolent Political Protest

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It has been 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. If he were alive today, how would King view his philosophy of nonviolent political protest during the current struggles for social and interpersonal change?

“During this pivotal time, it seems as if we are at the height of the struggle toward becoming an inclusive society, and our journey continues during this evolution toward becoming a truly just and beloved community,” said Archie Ervin, vice president for Institute Diversity.

During Georgia Tech’s Seventh Annual MLK Lecture, “Actualizing the Dream: The Future of Nonviolent Political Protest,” Joy-Ann Reid, national correspondent for MSNBC, discussed King’s legacy and his vision of a beloved community, achieved through nonviolent principles.

“I sometimes object to the ‘postcardization’ of Dr. King,” said Reid. “During these anniversaries, it is easier to remember the beautiful words that he said and to forget the more complicated person that he was. If Dr. King were alive today, he wouldn’t be the man who is saying that we can get to the table of brotherhood; he would be agitating for the change that he was trying to create.”

After discussing the complexities of American history, including the Poor People’s Campaign, King’s last days, and the designation of a federal holiday honoring him, Reid shifted her focus to today’s national climate. “The wealth gap is only getting worse, and the political power gap is just as wide. The country has a long way to go to be a more perfect union.” 

As Reid stated, the median black family has $1,700 in wealth, and the median Latino family has $2,000 in wealth – total assets minus total debt – which has declined over the past three decades. Meanwhile, white median household wealth is significantly higher – $116,800 – up from $102,000 30 years ago.1

“Anyone who wants to advocate for economic justice needs to understand that you need to fight for racial justice as a unique, special, and separate thing. Then, you need to fight for economic justice as a reparative, multi-community, and interdenominational thing,” concluded Reid. “Otherwise, America is a tribal country, and all the tribes will fight for whatever limited resources there are.”

Following the lecture, Allen Hyde, assistant professor in the School of History and Sociology, remarked, “It is important to understand the complexity of Dr. King and American history, so we can understand the connections between racial justice and economic justice in both the past and today’s society.”

“Despite America’s tribal nature, we can come together by developing Dr. King’s dangerous unselfishness, particularly in today’s narcissistic era, as the need for economic justice cuts across everything,” said John Jordan, alumnus of Morehouse College and managing partner for Fight for Light Inc.

To view the MLK Lecture in its entirety, visit

Georgia Tech’s MLK Lecture is sponsored by Institute Diversity, Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, Office of Government and Community Relations, and Office of Student Diversity Programs. To learn more about the MLK Lecture, visit


1 Josh Hoxie, “Blacks and Latinos Will Be Broke in a Few Decades,” FORTUNE, (September 19, 2017). 


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  • Created By:Annette Filliat
  • Created:02/07/2018
  • Modified By:Annette Filliat
  • Modified:02/07/2018