The Williams College Gospel Choir performs 'Lift Ev'ry Voice.'
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Attendees at Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration at Williams College were reminded of King's humanity and the divine message he preached.
Williams junior Naomi Francois of the school's Black Campus Ministries group told the crowd gathered in the Paresky Center that, as a Christian, she was offended by the way the name Christian is co-opted by people in who society who are anything but.
Francois referenced the Lord's Prayer, the foundational prayer of Christianity found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
She said when she hears people pray the words, she wonders if they realize what they're actually saying — particularly when it comes to the second line.
" 'Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven,' " she repeated. "People aren't really thinking about what the Kingdom is."
Francois reminded her audience that the Kingdom that Jesus was talking about was described throughout the Gospel through sermons and parables, and, as described, looks remarkably different than some of what one hears being preached in Jesus' name today.
"Not one of those stories ever described a Kingdom where all the people came from the same culture or spoke the same language," she said. "None of the stories described a scenario where some people are worthy to be present in the Kingdom based on whether they clung to the status quo or if they were narrow-minded or if they shunned people based on their race, class, gender or orientation.
"What those stories do say and do talk about is they describe the Kingdom as justice. They describe the Kingdom as equity. They describe the Kingdom as mercy. My dream would be that the people who pray the prayer, 'Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,' would actually want to see the Kingdom come."
Shawna Patterson-Stephens, the newly appointed director of Williams' Davis Center for equity and diversity, reminded the crowd that the man they were honoring was, in fact, a man, and there is a danger in putting great and heroic figures on a pedestal.
"The danger in that is that we fail to realize that those flaws make those people," Patterson-Stephens said. "So we start to believe we can't have flaws because those people didn't have flaws.
"We all know MLK had some struggles — personal, spiritual, physical. But you do, too. And you can be just as great as he was, if not greater."
Monday's remembrance at the school's student union included performances by the student step team Sankofa and the Gospel Choir.
Williams students also collaborated with students at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on a Day of Service and hosted a discussion of King's opposition to the war in Vietnam.
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