Hill discusses social change, racial equality

N-Marc-Lamont Colby Patterson
Marc Lamont Hill, a professor at Columbia University, addressed attendees about Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream at Kingsbury Hall on Thursday. Photo by Calvin Chhour.

Marc Lamont Hill, a professor at Columbia University, addressed attendees about Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream at Kingsbury Hall on Thursday. Photo by Calvin Chhour.

Marc Lamont Hill’s call to action rang through the Kingsbury Hall auditorium as he said “We must act bravely.”

As the keynote speaker for the U’s celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Week, Hill’s speech was the last event in a series of conversations and rallies to encourage students to stand up against racial profiling.

“He listened,” Hill said of MLK. “He understood the political value of listening. We must listen to young people.”

Hill said in his address that the U.S. has traveled a long way in terms of political and social change within racism and sexism.

“We live in a country that doesn’t just grow old, but grows up,” he said.

Most of Hill’s speech was a call to action for more change. He said people must follow MLK’s legacy to start a conversation.

Ed Munoz, the co-chair and organizer of MLK Week from the Office of Equity and Diversity at the U, said Hill is a leading individual in hip-hop that engages youth from a variety of cultural backgrounds. He said his keynote was a “different take” on racial profiling.

Munoz hopes students left Hill’s address “with validation of who they are within underrepresented groups … to really show that there are positive things and people to look for even when they are facing issues themselves.”

Cami Bailey, a sophomore in music education, said she enjoyed Hill’s focus on personal growth.

“He had a very good approach to social and political change,” Bailey said.

Hill’s appearance filled Kingsbury with faculty, staff and students, including students from local high schools. He addressed these younger students as leaders.

“We need each and every one of them” Hill said.

Chase Paxman, a junior in statistics, said Hill’s definition of hope was admirable. Hill called the audience to “hope relentlessly” and defined hope with fragments of MLK’s words.

“Nothing is more courageous than nonviolence,” Hill said “We don’t have to be prisoner to a statistic, to an ideal.”

Hill encouraged listeners to keep hope in order to take action.

“Make a commitment to action, because the biggest problem today is that there are too many people in the world that don’t do anything,” he said.

Munoz called Hill’s push for change and encouragement in the audience inspiring.

Hill is an associate professor at Columbia University and has received awards, such as the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism Article, for his work as a journalist, author and academic. He remains an activist for social change.

“This campus is a site for activism as you showed by dedicating so much time this week,” Hill said.

k.johnson@chronicle.utah.edu