The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

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Dr. Jared Ball speaks on rewriting and appropriation of King’s legacy

 

As part of Bucknell University’s MLK Week, Dr. Jared Ball came and gave a talk titled “Dr. King and the Terror of Revolution” last Thursday, Jan. 25. Ball is an academic and political activist. He is a professor of Communication Studies and Africana and Black Studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland as well as the host of the podcast iMiXWHATiLiKE! and co-founder of Black Power Media.

A central theme of Ball’s work is how popular rebranding of Black radical history and politics serves ongoing inequality and the suppression of social movements likely to evolve in response. Professor Ball discussed the history and political context of what has shaped today’s image of Dr. King, an image Ball says makes King, “the most known and least understood figure in human history second perhaps only to the historical Jesus Christ.” 

Dr. Ball’s work in Africana and Media Studies, as well as broadcasting, includes specific challenges to popularly constructed narratives of hip-hop history, the life and politics of Malcolm X, economic mythologies of circulating dollars and “buying power,” and has included presentations on media misrepresentation of Dr. King delivered also to the Library of Congress.

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The Thursday night event began with introductory speakers Marcus Scales, the Director of Multicultural Student Services, and chief of staff of Black Student Union, Ninah Jackson ’25. Both highlighted that while it is important to have conversations about equity and inclusiveness when Bucknell invites speakers such as Dr. Ball during MLK Week, it is extremely important to continue having them thereafter.

Throughout his speech, Ball discussed a fictitious story of his trip to Bucknell. This fantastical trip was suddenly changed when he was upgraded to first class, where he discussed Martin Luther King Jr. with Amy Schumer, Ava DuVernay and Killer Mike. 

But throughout the lecture, hidden motifs of historical fact built the comedic story. For instance, Ball remarked how when the plane took off, the pilot came on the intercom and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we were going to be arriving at the gate early, but our co-pilot is more Dr. King to my Malcolm X, so we’ll just be on time”. 

Ball continued his story by bringing up less known realities of the life of Dr. King, highlighting his revolutionary-like spirit that often gets ignored and how that coincided with his support of non-violent direct action protest.

In his “conversation” with Schumer, DuVernay and Killer Mike, Dr. Ball brought up facts about King’s historical account and how film retellings of MLK and other significant figures in Black history distort their stories, sprinkling in correlations of the past with current events of the day, such as the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

His main argument was that memories, soundbytes and images of King are often co-opted to support ideas and movements that King would not have necessarily agreed with, citing Schumer, DuVernay and Killer Mike as perpetrators of King’s misrepresentation.

Ball finished his talk with a Q&A, where he discussed many aspects of his life, such as his mixed-race identity, the familial myths he was raised with, future endeavors in his research, how being a radical has led to isolation in his career and his openness about the subjectivity of the courses he teaches. 

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