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“The Post Racial Blues: Martin Luther King’s Jailhouse Intervention” was the Humanities Symposium Keynote event in conclusion of the Humanities symposium week discussing “A Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. The guest speaker, J.Kameron Carter, PhD, Associate Professor in Theology and Black Church Studies of Duke Divinity School, helped shed light on the historical work of literature. Martin Luther King Jr. writes about just and unjust laws, nonviolent campaigns, and the oppressed. King’s powerfully writes, “So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?” King’s question can be applied in every aspect of life, as shown through various works of literature.
“A Father” by Bharati Mukherjee is a story about an Indian man’s disappoint with his life and family. An immigrant from India, married to a woman he never loved, and a daughter that was a heir disappointment, the man is obviously unhappy. His prayers consumer more and more of his day and he is very superstitious. It is interesting that the father is prepared to find out that his daughter is pregnant, that perhaps his son in-law will even be American. But, the father is not prepared for the pregnancy to be the result of a donor, and as a result he goes from defending his daughter to beating her. The reader can assume that the father’s brutality was enormous when the author writes, “ In the end, it was his wife who called the police”. The father is an extremist of hate and injustice, he hates that his daughter has broken tradition and is not the perfect feminine child. The father might think his reaction is fit because of what he believes, but he is only advocating hatred and injustice. According to people such as Martin Luther King Jr., the father will only continue in his disillusionment and unhappiness until he can discover peaceful reactions to his daughter, even if it is disappointment.
Stephanie Shapiro’s “Serving up Hope” highlights the importance of giving back and putting your faith in others. The Sampsons, a couple from Hampden, Baltimore is the owner of the Dogwood Deli. The deli helps former drug users and convicts a clean slate at work and life. Chef Galen Sampeson, a talented chef, shares his culinary skills to help people with troubled pasts. The Dogwood Deli practices exactly what Martin Luther King Jr. preached, the Sampeson’s are extremist of love and justice. They actively help better the world and restore people’s will to be better and do better. Instead of turning away from people who need help, they embrace them and help them achieve more with their life. They advocate justice for those who have previously made mistakes and incorporate love and support, not hate and cruelty, to help people with troubled pasts to continue on the right path.
Richard Hague’s poem, “Directions fro Resisting the SAT”, can relate to every potential college student. The countless hours and stress related to the SAT can be resisted, as humorously advised by Hague. Hague goes against the status quo, forgetting about “Saturday morning with pencils” and saying to, “Resign all clubs and committees”, crucial to a high school resume. At first the idea sounds liberating, but then the poet writes, “Desire to live whole, like an oyster or snail, and follow no directions. Listen to no one”. But is a life lived to it’s fullest without the advice and knowledge of others to listen to? Hague writes, “Make your marks on everything”, as in go outside the tiny circles that the SAT only wants filled in perfectly. Hague’s message isn’t bomb the SAT but to look at life outside the norm, to “follow no direction”, and to make sure you are living life beyond one test score, to the fullest. King’s letter applies to Hague’s poem because it is up to the individual to be an extremist in what they believe. If no one ever looked to believe in desegregation, love, and justice, than no change would have occurred from the norm at the time. The SAT is obviously not a hurtful and prejudice act such as segregation, but “Make your marks on everything” represents the importance of being your on person in the world.
“First Practice” by Gary Gildner, recalls an extremely intimidating first day of practice. The coach, a “man with a short cigar”, appears to be over-bearing and hostile, a no nonsense man. The coach said he was “Clifford Hill” and “had once killed for his country”. The poem suggests the practice will be physical, for instance it is held where the students would normally retire to “in case of attack or storm”. The boys are suddenly and abruptly thrown into a practice beyond what they had been used to. The poet’s tone of the recollection portrays his shock when lined up against each other from the “man they hate most in the world”. The poem’s word choice and tone reflects military style or that of a drill sergeant. Gildner’s coach in the poem connects sports to oppression. “If we are to win that title…” the title will not be handed to the boys, just as freedom is never handed from the oppressors. The poem compares the practice almost to preparation for a battle, the ability to go face to face with a man across you.
The “Post Racial Blues: Martin Luther King’s Jailhouse Intervention” event helped wrap up discussions about “A Letter from a Birmingtam Jail” and the importance of King’s message. Bharati Mukherjee’s short story, “A Father,” and Stephanie Shapiro’s “Serving up Hope” represent the two different kinds of extremist, extremist of hate and extremists of love. Richard Hague’s poem, “Directions for Resisting the SAT,” Gary Gildner’s poem, “First Practice”, relate more to King’s message of being yourself despite society’s norms and not allowing yourself to be oppressed even if it is on the sports field.