“Do they know about the Love that Hate Can’t Stop?” the members of Platinum, the Brandeis Step Team, shouted at the beginning of the University’s 13th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Monday night’s event, themed “The Love That h8 Can’t Stop,” was a celebration of love and unity, centered around the memory of King and his legacy.

After Platinum opened the memorial, Justin Cox, a soloist from Nichols College, sang and Dean of Students Jamele Adams spoke, opening the night with the powerful declaration, “Dr. King is not dead.”

“He led to our genius, our creativity, our love and our resilience,” Adams said, elaborating on King’s immorality. He is “present on a regular basis with us. We represent that love.”

Speaking of the present political and social situation, Adams said, “We live in a time that we never thought that we would live again.” He turned to the story of Quincy Merlin, an 8-year-old boy from Claremont, New Hampshire, who was hanged when the young white boys he was playing with turned violent, but Merlin freed himself and survived. Adams said this tragedy is not “how life is supposed to be.”

Adams continued, “We need to be the folks that make that change. I know that the students here at Brandeis do that on a regular basis, and I ask you to continue to push us, and not take it easy on us. Make us hold ourselves accountable for what we do.”

After Adams’ speech, producer and rapper Bethel Adekogbe ’20 layered musical rhythms with facts about King’s life. He concluded his performance with King’s own voice, reciting the famous declaration, “I have a dream.”

Drawing on the night’s theme, Interim Program Manager at the Office of Prevention Services Elba Valerio recited a poem she wrote about the meaning of love, highlighting the different types of affection and passion a person can experience. Her poem, recited first in Spanish and then paraphrased in English, was paired with photos from her life, echoing her message.

The dance groups TOXIC and Rebelle performed between speakers. Michelle Dennis ’18 performed a solo interpretive dance while children’s voices recited the names of men and women immortalized by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Wil Jones ’18 delivered the night’s keynote speech, grappling with the difficult relationship he has had throughout his life with King’s legacy and the imperfect reality of his life.

“It was not until I was in college that I was first able to begin to grapple with what his legacy … meant to me,” Jones said. “How do I make sense of the parts of his legacy that weren’t present in the sanitized version that I was force fed as a child?” he asked, drawing particular attention to King’s conflicted relationship with Black feminism. 

“How can I celebrate him in the name of equality when women within the civil rights movement received little recognition in public, in private?” Jones asked. He went on to examine King’s adultery: “As a public figure, a reverend, a leader of civil movement, does his marital discretion not deserve scrutiny?”

Jones warned about modern society falling into “traps of celebration,” which perpetuate “the same basic polarized conversation of ‘good’ and ‘bad’” when discussing leaders’ legacies.

“I think my point here is that our figures are multifaceted. They’re not just good, they’re not just bad. They’re not figures and people who can just be sanitized for public consumption and left aboard this pedestal. … As a country we have to start looking holistically at our leaders … we have to add nuance to the conversation.”

Capturing the energy and spirit of the night, the DMJ United Voices of Praise Choir performed songs from Christianity and Black history. In the middle of the performance, musicians moved down from the stage to connect and pray with students.

Reflecting on the powerful expression of passion and faith, Elder Terrence Haynes, the leader of the choir, told the Justice, “I think tonight was a great night of unity, love … I think it represented everything that Dr. King was fighting for, which was everyone coming together.”

As the choir left the stage, Kwesi Jones ’21 put King’s spirit into words by reciting King’s “Our God is Marching On!” speech. The speech confronts the question of how much longer it will take to reach the peaceful, egalitarian society envisioned by the Civil Rights Movement.

“How long?” Jones asked, speaking King’s words. “Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The memorial event was hosted in the Shapiro Campus Center Theater and was sponsored by the Men of Color Alliance and the Dean of Students Office.