Civil rights activist Andrew Young will address audiences tonight during Oklahoma Christian University’s annual History Speaks event. A former member of Martin Luther King Jr.’s inner circle and an eyewitness of King’s assassination, Young’s accomplishments include serving as the first black mayor of Atlanta, the United States Ambassador to the U.N. and as a U.S. Representative from Georgia.
Oklahoma Christian Assistant Dean of Students Gary Jones has worked on the History Speaks program since his wife conceptualized the event more than five years ago. Through the event, Oklahoma Christian has hosted significant figures form the civil rights movement such as Diane Nash, members of the Little Rock Nine and 1968 Olympic medalists John Carlos and Tommie Smith.
Jones said his process in choosing a speaker is to look back at the height of the civil rights movement and try to find important stories and people. Jones said those who attend the event will hear stories, which “help us to realize civil rights leaders are people just like us.”
“One of those stories that I felt like we really haven’t had the chance to tell was a really, really good story about Dr. King,” Jones said. “When you think of Dr. King, in my opinion, and those who were close to him, you think of either John Lewis or Andrew Young. So, we really made an effort this year to try to get one of those two guys to campus.”
Though Jones went through a speaker agency to make initial contact with Young, he eventually reached out to Nash, a pioneer of the civil rights movement and the speaker at History Speaks in 2017, to get in touch with Young.
According to Jones, students and members of the community will hear personal stories about Dr. King during tonight’s event, as well as additional insight into the movement itself.
“I think students can expect this night to be both educational and challenging,” Jones said. “I think you’ll find out some things about not only Dr. King and Andrew Young, but just about the movement itself that you may have not known before coming. But I think you’ll also be able to leave with some practical ways that you can continue working to make the world a better place.”
As the Oklahoma Christian Black Student Union’s social media coordinator and the head of the SGA’s Multicultural Committee, junior Thomas Caldwell said he is really excited to hear Young speak, as it gives students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not only witness someone who experienced an important era in American history, but to also better themselves.
“Every time History Speaks is announced, I’m always reminded that not every school has this opportunity,” Caldwell said. “So being a man of color, I don’t want to be comfortable, and I’m always looking to improve myself, inspire others and hopefully the future generation. I think this event does that perfectly.”
According to Jones, Oklahoma Christian expects the overflow room to sell out this year, potentially making this History Speaks the biggest one yet. In addition to the general “local buzz” about Young, many members from Young’s college fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, bought tickets to attend.
Jones said he hopes all people who attend get something out of the program.
“I hope they get a chance to hear and truly listen to somebody who first-hand experienced a lot of things that we’re still fighting for,” Jones said. “I hope they get the chance to appreciate the efforts and the literal blood, sweat and tears that some of our civil rights leaders have put into the soil for us to be able to have a better life as a result of it.”
History Speaks will take place at 7 p.m. tonight in the Garvey Center’s big auditorium.