Candlelight vigil, march honor MLK

Luke Taylor, Multimedia News Editor

“The narrative that I’m positing about Dr. King is that he did not dream,” Dr. Nathan A. Stephens told his audience Monday night. “He fantasized.”

Stephens was the keynote speaker for the 35th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. vigil and celebration hosted by the Zeta Nu chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

This year’s message was “A Time to Break Silence.”

The evening began with a march from Thomas Hall to the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union. Fraternity brothers lead chants and songs which focused on unity and progress.

Once in the Union, students performed songs and poetry before introducing Stephens, who is an assistant professor in the school of social work at Illinois State University and is himself a member of Alpha Phi Alpha.

“Psychologists today suggest that when a person dreams, they are unconscious,” Stephens said. “Conversely, the definition of fantasizing is to have an active and conscious mind. To fantasize means Dr. King was woke.”

Stephens said that he went through a period of his life when he didn’t participate in MLK Jr. Day celebrations because of the disparities he saw between his community and the rest of his hometown.

With an unemployment rate of 30 percent in his neighborhood as compared to six to eight percent in other areas, Stephens felt disillusioned with the holiday. It wasn’t until he started working as an activist to solve the problems he saw that Stephens began getting involved again.

Much of Stephens’ address focused on parts of King’s life and beliefs which are overlooked in the “sanitized, clean” version of history which most Americans learn in school.

“How can a non-violent preacher be listed on the FBI’s enemy list? Dr. King as we know and love and has a statue in Washington D.C. was an enemy of the United States government,” Stephens said.

Some of the rhetoric that Stephens touched on included King’s understanding that racism would continue in American society long after his death due to the systemic, especially economic, factors which uphold it.

Stephens said that prior to racism, capitalism and greed was the cause of the transatlantic slave trade. He connected this to modern-day companies placing valuing profit over people.

“One of the things I’ve learned in his short life I’ve lived is that capitalism, making money, will supersede your health and well-being in many circles in our society,” Stephens said. “Dr. King foresaw that corporate profit margin get influenced by congressional leaders, and subsequently be correlated to social problems such as the killing of unarmed black citizens by law enforcement, mass incarceration, poverty, and so much more.”

Luke Taylor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].