Building momentum through love at UMass Dartmouth

Feb 1, 2019

At UMass Dartmouth’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast, students, faculty, and the public got a lesson on equality from a former football player turned LGBTQ+ rights advocate. 

The annual event, held on Feb. 5, honors King’s legacy. This year, the event also honored that of Bayard Rustin, a lesser known figure and openly gay man who influenced the course of the civil rights movement by introducing King to Gandhi’s teachings of nonviolence.

The theme of this year’s breakfast was “building momentum through love,” a concept that keynote speaker Wade Davis has built a career around as an advocate for inclusion and equality.

A former NFL player, Wade Davis has since come out as gay-- although he invited the audience to reframe “coming out” as “inviting the world in.” Coming out, he said, makes LGBTQ+ people sound separate from everyone else, while inviting people in by sharing a new aspect of one’s identity places the revelation within the context of love, not fear.

Davis told the audience that people are “made of history,” meaning that people’s reactions are shaped by their own past and their knowledge of the world. He said that when he first told his mother that he was gay, she was upset.

“What she hated was what she thought the world would do to me,” Davis recalled. Instead of reacting in anger, Davis said he reacted with love.

“Fear has no root to pull from, but love does,” Davis said.

He spoke to the audience about learning to look beyond myths that keep people separate from each other. He asked the audience to go beyond the facts they are presented with to find the truth, which is where the love is.

“I implore you all when you leave here to act out of love,” Davis said.

“No one told me that vulnerability is a strength,” Davis said. “No one told me that vulnerability is how we connect to other people and that we can therefore love them.”

He encouraged the audience to work on being honest and vulnerable, and move away from keeping up appearances or trying to meet others’ expectations.

“It’s easy for us to feel shame. It’s easy for us to feel guilty. But that shame and that guilt have no value to you or anyone else,” Davis said. “We have to become disinterested in thinking of ourselves as good people, and just say I’m human, and I’m going to fall short.”

UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert Johnson emphasized the strong connections between the civil rights movements and current advocacy for equality and a more just world.

The event also featured music by Kimberley Locke, a finalist on American Idol, and Jerome Kyles.