By Justin Toney
Martin Luther King Jr. visited the University of Mary Washington’s undergraduate campus this past Monday. On the national holiday set aside to celebrate his life, King’s words resounded on campus.
Of course, the visitor was not Dr. King in the flesh, but a performer of King’s speeches and writings named Jim Lucas.
Lucas, invited to the school as part of the Cultural Awarness Series, is known internationally for his resemblance to and interpretation of Dr. King.
By 4 p.m., Dodd Auditorium was filled to half capacity with students, faculty, staff, and guests of the University of Mary Washington community.
President of Women of Color Osob Samantar introduced Lucas to those gathered as the “keeper of the dream”, referring to King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Her introduction of Lucas’ as an international celebrity prompted the man to say to the audience, “Had she not used my name I wouldn’t have known who she was talking about.”
Lucas began his speech talking about King’s life and his role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
“The whole idea is to tell students things they didn’t hear or didn’t know about Dr. King,” said Lucus afterward.
Making a joke that compared King writing his “I Have a Dream” speech the night before the March on Washington to a college student writing a term paper last minute, Lucas got a positive reaction from his audience.
When the laughter died down, the audience gave Lucus two standing ovations for his moving reenactments of King’s words.
When the Land of Promise Praise Team re-took the stage after Lucus had finished, members of the audience sang teary-eyed to the song of the visiting choir.
“I don’t think that there was anybody in there who left not feeling that they were in the presence of the real Dr. King,” said Samantar.
Kyle Coppinger, a fifth-year senior, appreciated Lucas’ presence on campus.
“The entire oration felt like I was standing on the Mall, standing in front of the Linclon Memorial,” said Coppinger.
Coppinger says the speech was one of the best he had ever heard.
“I was thoroughly amazed. It was one of the most moving experiences I have ever seen,” Coppinger went further. “To hear a man who can not only emulate, but live in a manner that Dr. King is extremly powerful.”
Freshman class president Christina Elder introduced the event.
“He’s keeping the persona of Martin Luther King alive with his speeches,” said Elder. “He’s bringing it to a new generation.”
Elder added that she felt personally moved by the speeches given by Lucas.
“It inspires us to keep aiming for Dr. King’s dream,” she added.
When asked if he ever goes outside of the works of King for his performances, Lucas said that it would be too overwhelming to do.
“There’re so many things that Dr. King has done,” he explained. “There’s more than I can handle.”
During a reception for the winners of the Citizenship of the Year Awards for Diversity Leadership, Osob Samantar, a senior, and Kiama Anthony, a junior, Lucas said that the Mary Washington campus reminded him of his own alma mater: Southern University in Baton Rouge, La.
“It’s a very beautiful campus and it has lots of beautiful buildings,” said Lucas.
“I’ve found more comraderie and sense of community here and I’ve found more of a sense of community here than in other institutions,” he added, attributing the communal atmosphere to the size of the school.
“If I could choose a school, I would choose one of this size,” Lucas said.