Undergraduate Jalen Hamilton, a political science major with a minor in creative writing, is the 2015 winner of DePaul’s the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Student Speech Contest. On Jan. 19, Hamilton read his speech during the university’s annual prayer breakfast in honor of King. The full text of the speech can be found below.
Have you ever tried to quiet a revolution, a metronome, brass black bodies way too fond of strings, woodwinds that come with triggers and oppression with percussion feet? There is no music greater than the symphonies of the marginalized and unsatisfied. Today, there has been a revival of old songs, the kind of hymns that pay homage to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Though Dr. King was known for his nonviolent approach to social justice, King’s legacy revolves around a steadfast drumming, a fight against various atrocities. Dr. King was relentless, and such meticulous determination is pertinent not just for the progression of students, but for the pursuits of all humankind.
The rigorous fight for equality did not end with the death of Dr. King on that balcony in Memphis, Tenn. It made its way to markers and paint, signs for freedom, marches, and yes, riots too. Just when we thought there was a difference between today and those historical times, with the speed of technology on our sides, it seems some force has screened our calls, because freedom’s ring has been declined. Unfortunately, those cardboard signs of Dr. King’s era still apply. To some people, the legacy of Dr. King only lives through the words of his speech delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. To others, it is important to continue with meaningful nonviolent action for positive change, perpetuating the dream of Dr. King for our reality.
I continue his pursuit for social justice through various mentorship programs at DePaul University. I have been privileged to be a STARS peer mentor, working with first-generation and multicultural students. I have been privileged to be a College Connect peer guide, a program for high school students orchestrated by the Center for Access and Attainment at DePaul. Each of these programs requires me to develop a lasting relationship with both students and faculty, in an effort to foster perpetual growth in student achievement.
One of my proudest accomplishments and ways of living out the legacy of Dr. King is being a man of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, an organization in which Dr. King was initiated in 1952. This year alone, I’ve helped launch the Know Your Rights Campaign here at DePaul, to raise awareness on the conceal and carry laws of Illinois, as well as to educate students on their rights as a United States citizen if approached and stopped by law enforcement. I have also had the great experience of participating in our annual Project Alpha program, a day of educating middle school and high school minority male students on sexual awareness.
Dr. King was a family man and his work was not just purposed with the wellbeing of the people, but the future of his children. My personal vision is to continue to exemplify socially responsible leadership through a career in secondary and postsecondary education. With doctoral degrees in both law and political science, I plan to provide students with an understanding of the law and the power of politics. Like Dr. King, I know the value of education and the importance of youth in the progression of every community. As an educator, I will also teach my students what it means to dream, teaching them that our reality today was not the reality of Americans in the 1960s. Though there has been a revival of old songs, the kind of hymns that hit at the hearts of older souls, there is still a progressive melody in those metronomes. Young people are using their feet like drums, the kind of music that will lead us home.