- Last Updated on 07:58 AM 01/22/14
- BY Danielle Vaughn
“Our homework is not completely finished,” Dr. James J. Davis told hundreds attending the Ninth Annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast held at The Prizery Monday morning. L. E. Coleman African-American Museum sponsored the event. “The Struggle Continues” was the theme for the breakfast, and Davis served as keynote speaker sharing King’s dream with the audience and noting there is still work to be done before King’s dream will be complete.
Davis, a Halifax County native, earned a bachelor’s from Virginia State College, a master’s from the Ohio State University and a doctorate at the University of Maryland.
For the past 33 years, he has served as professor of Spanish and humanities at Howard University in the Department of World Languages and Cultures in Washington, D.C.
He served as chairman of the department for 20 years and is author of many publications on teaching languages and cultures, international education and literature of the Dominican Republic.
Davis has lectured widely on those topics in the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and South America.
He now has a special interest in the history of education and genealogy of African-Americans in Halifax County. Davis attended Mountain Road School #1, the current home of the L. E. Coleman African-American Museum.
Davis’ message Monday morning was entitled, “The Struggle Continues, So Our Homework is Not Completely Finished.”
He explained the historical origin of the theme for this year’s breakfast saying the phrase became popular in the Portuguese — speaking African nation of Mozambique when they fought for independence from Portugal.
“The Struggle Continues” translated in Portuguese is “A luta Continua.”
Martin Luther King’s dream is not yet complete, and work still needs to continue.
He shared with the audience the five C’s including communication, culture, comparison, community and connections.
“The five C’s can be the ingredients used to address the theme of the struggle continues,” Davis said. “We must have a plan to create a collective mindset and ways to improve what we do in our lives, in our community, in the world, to finish Martin Luther King’s dream.
Communication and Community
“Martin Luther King Jr. was an extraordinary communicator in speeches and in his actions. His quotes and sayings are still relevant in lives and in all world societies today.
King was first a preacher and then a social activist, Davis said.
“He wants us to continue to communicate his message of non-violence and equality among all peoples regardless of race, creed or color, and he would want us to create and record positive images and messages of our community, our history, our culture,” he added. “He would want us to continue to communicate to our youth the importance of loving yourself, loving who you are, loving from where you came and loving each other. Equally is important. He would want us to uplift our community through communication with positive interaction with each other.”
Davis said most communications are delivered through actions rather than words.
“A hug communicates strong thoughts and feelings without saying a word,” Davis said. “A community can show love by reaching out and touching someone’s hand to make this world a better place if you can,” he said quoting Dianna Ross lyrics.
“We must communicate to our youth the values that were passed on to us by our parents, grandparents and our community.
“We should not, however, expect our youth to be their elders because they are being raised in a world that is quite different from the one which their elders were raised,” Davis said. “But even though times have changed, right versus wrong still remains the same.”
Culture and Comparisons
“Culture is everything that a group of people says, does and thinks,” Davis said. “Culture is what we value as human beings.”
He took a moment to emphasize the culture of African-Americans noting the numerous names they’d been given over the years (colored, negro, black, etc.).
“As African-Americans, we have inherited a rich history of religious and philosophical values from Africans, American Indians, Europeans and other groups. As Martin Luther King Jr. might ask: How do we fit into the fabric or larger pictures of American culture?” Davis said.
“Well, we have made some extremely important contributions to the progress of human history and culture, but our contributions, although they are now in the some history books and in Ebony and Jet magazines, they have not been fully credited throughout the United States and the world.”
He said that some aspects of African-American culture are being spread in a negative way.
As an example he shared his story of an experience visiting Madrid Spain in the early 1970s.
He said the only image of black people the people there had was through the movies.
“When they saw me walking down the streets, sometimes they would move to the side and let me walk through like I was dancing through the soul train line,” Davis said. “I wondered why they were acting that way and treating me like that. I learned later that they thought I was “Superfly” or some other big drug dealing character from one of the Blaxploitation movies from the 1970s ready to shoot them if they rubbed me the wrong way.”
As another example of negative images of African-American culture, Davis mentioned the message sent to young men that in order to be hip, they can’t be a good student.
“The message that speaking in a certain way is acting white or nerdish or geekish is simply a bad message to send young black men and women as we have in our social groups, in movies and in media,” Davis said. “Neither the Rev. L. E. Coleman nor the Rev. Martin Luther King would support those messages. The youth, regardless of what group they belong to, must learn to communicate on several levels in order to be competitive in a society which demands competition for jobs and other uplifting experiences.”
Everyone in the community is a teacher, and parents are the first teachers, he added.
“All of our learning can not be left to school teachers. That’s another problem, but we need to communicate to the parents about their role in the education of their children. Many of them are losing sight of that or never saw it in the first place,” he said.
Davis said he believed it was appropriate to compare groups of people to see where inequalities and issues of injustice exist.
“Dr. King fought through his actions and speeches to make sure that we compare and analyze the social struggles of not only the African-American and other so-called minority communities, but of all world societies.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” he said. We have achieved great progress in many areas, but “the struggle indeed continues on many fronts,” Davis said making a few comparisons.
“As long as we live in, as Martin Luther King said in 1967, ‘a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift,’ the struggle continues. When we have as nearly as many African-American males in jail as we have in college, the struggle continues. As long as we have homelessness and helplessness in our communities, the struggle continues,” Davis said. “As long as some value the dollar more than they value human life, the struggle continues. As long as we have people who withhold their love for someone because of the color of their skin, the struggle continues. As long as we don’t fully put into practice the message of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, the struggle continues.”
“While we are to live in our own communities, we must connect with other communities because we can’t live in an isolated world. All humans are connected by humanity, but unfortunately, it has been people’s inhumanity toward each other that is one of our greatest social ills ands problems—wars and violence—world wars, civil wars, race wars, street wars, family wars, church wars, etc.,” Davis said.
“These wars often occur because groups don’t connect and try to truly understand each other. The struggles continues. We are often in the dark about the cultures of other groups.”
At the conclusion of Davis’s speech, Supervisor Vice-Chairman Bryant Claiborne presented the speaker with a resolution from the Halifax County Board of Supervisors recognizing his accomplishments.
L. E. Coleman African-American Museum Founder Shirley Chandler also was honored during the breakfast, and the museum board of directors presented her with a plaque of appreciation.
Also during the breakfast, L.E. Coleman African-American Museum President Earl Howerton and the Rev. Kevin Chandler introduced master of ceremonies Leroy Chandler.
Ronnie Pannell gave the welcome, and Joanne Carter offered three musical selections.
Strictly Country Cooking, owned by Jimmy Wood, catered the breakfast Monday morning at The Prizery.