Terri Lee Freeman ’81 has spent her career advocating for the importance and continued discussion of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message. For the 50th anniversary of the assassination of King, Freeman shared with the world his belief in peaceful, direct action and civil disobedience to affect change and the promise of America for all during a commemoration ceremony at the Lorraine Motel, the site of King’s assassination.
On Thursday, April 12, she brought that message to a Dayton audience during her presentation “The Incredible Relevance of Dr. King’s Message Today” in Kennedy Union ballroom. She spoke of what she called striking similarities between the political climate in King’s time and our political climate today.
“His message is relevant today because he has demonstrated the sacrifice that is required to make change. His work was not rhetoric. He was not a dreamer; he had a dream, but his work was real,” Freeman said.
Freeman pointed to specific social action and issues in our country: the Black Lives Matter movement, school shootings and student activism, reactions to controversial wage laws. Racism, job inequity and uneven justice, Freeman said, underlie these all and continue to plague our nation.
Freeman earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and communication arts at UD before receiving her master’s in organizational communication from Howard University. She now serves as the president of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Her lecture was part of the campus #MLK50 commemoration, which also included a public screening of King’s last speech delivered the night before his assassination and a remembrance ceremony at the campus King monument.
As Freeman spoke, she made a call for change. It could be as simple as more millennials showing up to vote or as widespread as each of us having the willpower to remain nonviolent in a violent situation.
“I am here and ready to support you,” she said. “But I’m not going to tell you how to do it. You have to decide how it’s going to work, for you and for the masses.”