Kentucky State University President M. Christopher Brown II delivered the message during the Simmons College of Kentucky memorial service commemorating the 50th-anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. at St. Stephen Baptist Church in Louisville.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer provided greetings to those assembled.
“The battle for justice today, unfortunately, is ingrained in our history,” Fischer said. “We, as white America, have to own our history in order to move forward together.”
Simmons College of Kentucky President Dr. Kevin W. Cosby introduced President Brown.
“We are honored to have this education and Christian statesman as our guest,” Cosby said. “His leadership at Kentucky State is transformative. He is a scholar but he is also unapologetically a preacher.”
The theme of President Brown’s message was “The Gospel of a Dead King: Purpose, Prejudice, and Possibility.”
“Today we stand in recognition of this man maliciously gunned down 50 years ago because of the words that he spoke,” President Brown said. “I invite us to not just see his death but to focus on his life and legacy. I invite us to examine the status of progress since that dream.”
President Brown said many lament that Martin Luther King Jr. died too soon, but he argues that the activist and visionary had just the right amount of time to accomplish his destiny.
“My brothers and sisters, nothing just happens,” President Brown said. “Everything happens in God’s purpose and plan.”
President Brown said Dr. King’s assassination germinated the presentation of purpose.
“The world stood in awe as the voice of liberation came from a poor black preacher from Georgia,” President Brown said. “King declared the battle was not ours, it was the Lord’s.”
President Brown also said Dr. King’s death guts the pain of prejudice.
“They tried to kill the man but the legacy lives on,” President Brown said. “Over 1,000 streets in this nation are named after him.”
Finally, President Brown said Dr. King’s death guarantees the promise of possibility.
“We may have come over here on different ships, but we’re on the same boat now,” President Brown said. “There is still power in each and every one of us. We can and we will and we must achieve.”
President Brown also noted that change can come from a vocal minority.
“Great social movements aren’t born overnight but it’s time for us to tell each other the truth. Our change never came from majority rule. It was altered by a small minority crying out in the wilderness.”