MU celebrates MLK with speech by Judge Glenda Hatchett at Missouri Theatre

Judge Glenda Hatchett met Martin Luther King, Jr. at a piano recital.
Judge Glenda Hatchett, author of "Dare to Take Charge," speaks to an audience of Columbia community members at the Missouri Theatre on Wednesday night. Hatchett told stories of her childhood growing up in the Atlanta public school district as well as a personal connection she had with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Glenda Hatchett warned the audience she was a storyteller Thursday night at Missouri Theatre.

She said she was long-winded like most Southern Baptists. She said she liked to move around when she spoke. She said she wasn’t interested in telling people to “climb every mountain” or “forge every stream.” Hatchett, whose lecture was part of MU’s Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration, told the Missouri Theatere crowd she wanted to keep it real.

“I want to speak to you as a community of brothers and sisters,” Hatchett said. “And I call you my brothers and sisters without regard to race or religion or culture – wherever you’re from – because we are brothers and sisters in this amazing journey.”

The presentation, entitled “Dare to Take Charge: How To Live and Lead With Purpose,” focused on the lessons Hatchett has learned from King. Hatchett, who is the centerpiece of the nationally syndicated program called "Judge Hatchett," said everyone is a beneficiary of King's dream. His life’s story, Hatchett said, can inspire a generation of dreamers.

When King was born, he was "just a little colored boy" in the deep, segregated South, Hatchett said. The “vast majority of people” in the world had low expectations for him. Hatchett described how this "colored boy" would “liberate the hearts and souls of all people.”

“Destiny basically said that there would be higher expectations of this little colored boy and a marvelous outcome would flow from his life,” Hatchett said. “And so Martin Luther defied all of the low expectations of era and set out on a mission of mercy.”

"I've been watching Judge Hatchett since I was little. So when I heard she was coming to speak, I wanted to come. She's a good speaker, motivating and uplifting... Dr. King's legacy means everything to me. He is the starting point for where we are now. The lives we have now would have proceeded a lot more slowly without his leadership. – Freshman Missy Davis, Sports Management

Hatchett, who also grew up in the Deep South, told the story of how she met King after a piano recital she had with his daughter. She said he walked in late and wanted to hear what he missed. After his daughter played for him, he asked Hatchett to play, too.

Her piece only lasted about two seconds but he sat and listened, Hatchett said. He took his hat and overcoat off and listened from a metal folding chair. In the old building with the “faded drapes” and “broken tile,” Hatchett said it seemed like King was sitting in Carnegie Hall.

“This was a man who changed the world,” Hatchett said. “But he was also a man of deep faith, a man that loved his children, that loved his wife and tried to balance this enormous responsibility he had for all of us.”

Hatchett said people need to focus on what this generation is going to do instead of what King would do.

"Dr. King was big on the dream. To me, his legacy focuses on building of the community and serving others...Any institution, not just Mizzou, takes time to fully develop his legacy but Mizzou is doing a really great job." – Senior Brittany Campbell, International Studies

“We’ve got to get to a place in this country where we are putting a premium on what is important if we are ever going to have a chance at a loved community,” Hatchett said. “We have got to order our communities in what makes sense.”

Deronne Wilson, Unit Director for the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia, attended the presentation. He brought six of his involved club members with him. Wilson said his hope was that they would leave with a “positive outlook” on issues involving diversity.

“I just think that with all that’s going on, all the tragic events, (it’s good) to hear inspirational words instead of dwelling in the negative,” Wilson said.

Wilson, who has been with the Boys and Girls Club for 10 years, had seen Hatchett on television many times before. Some of his kids had heard of her, some had not. He said he was excited for them to hear from an expert.

"(Dr. King's legacy) signifies where we came from and that you can do anything you put your mind to. It only takes one person to stand up for justice and spark a change...I think that Mizzou attempts to (uphold Dr. King's values) but it's not always executed effectively." – Junior Danyelle Gray, Marketing and Communications

One of his club members was 11-year-old Matthew Porter. Porter, who has been involved with the club for about four years, said he often hears about shootings on television. He described how Hatchett’s presentation on diversity ties in with greater problems involving violence. People need to think more about what they’re doing, Porter said.

“(It’s important to attend events like this) because teenagers are going around shooting each other.” Porter said. “And I think they need to stop.”

At the end of the presentation, in a night that was filled with stories, Hatchett said she wanted to tell one more.

She was a freshman at Mount Holyoke College in Hadley, Mass. She made it to the university mainly on scholarship money, she said. Her roommate, on the other hand, was a wealthy European.

“His (Martin Luther King’s) legacy is important. He changed the discussion on racial equality and he changed a nations’ viewpoint. I think Columbia Public Schools has incorporated the teachings of Martin Luther King into the curriculum. We teach about the civil rights movement, we read literature regarding equality and freedom, we espouse a democracy that is built on the principles of equal access for all citizens.” – Chris Belcher, Superintendent of Columbia Public Schools

The roommate inherited a $6 million fund when she turned 21, Hatchett said. She had a rug that depicted a bleeding bull. She spoke with an accent. Hatchett, who described how she had never been in a class with a white student before, described how she never made an effort to understand the student.

Hatchett preached to the crowd that tolerance is not enough.

“I tolerated her, I never worked to try to understand her,” Hatchett said. “And it was my loss, because it was just barrier after barrier after barrier – and it was my loss.”

Sophomore Chelsea Land was in attendance at the lecture. Land said she was moved and inspired by the presentation.

“I want to make a change,” Land said. “I don’t know how, but I want to make a change.”

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