Like much of the world’s population, Erin Dickerson Davis was born long after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached his message of peace, love and hope. Yet some words are so beautiful and profound they live forever.
In her first season as women’s basketball coach at William & Mary, Davis cites MLK as an inspirational figure in her life. Not just on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but every day.
“More than anything, Martin Luther King got the Black community to believe in ourselves,” said Davis, whose team honored MLK prior to Sunday’s home game against Drexel. “He said we can overcome anything if we have faith and perseverance. If we stick together, we can overcome anything that’s thrown our way.
“That’s such an important life lesson with the ups and downs in life — not just in basketball, but in life in general. That’s what it means the most. It’s such an empowering day for me. It’s such a bright spot in the month. We can do this. We can make it work as long as we stick together.”
Men’s Coach Dane Fischer, whose team plays at Charleston Monday, learned about King growing up in Minnesota. But he was only taught part of the story.
“The thing I’ve learned most recently about him that has stuck with me is how he talked about the white moderate,” Fischer said. “That’s the person who is not overtly racist, doesn’t do anything to promote racism, but also doesn’t do anything to stop it.
“And how often times, those people are the biggest challenge in fighting racism. He was unbelievably forward thinking in seeing that.”
Kayla Beckwith, a junior on the women’s basketball team, believes King’s words are just as relevant now as they were half a century ago.
“The message MLK wanted to get across stands now with the protests over police brutality you see in the Black communities, and that’s working through things without violence,” she said. “To use peace and find a common ground to bring multiple communities together despite what’s going on.
“His ideals as a civil rights leader were to get a community to come together and rise above oppression they faced through non-violence. His actions and his overall message was so important.”
Dani McTeer, a sophomore forward on Davis’ team, is a strong believer in that message.
“I think it’s very important we celebrate and remember his legacy,” McTeer said. “He did so many great things not only for the African-American community but the world in general trying to spread peace, not hate, and bringing everyone together as one.
“Martin Luther King Jr., preached that with hate, you can’t get anywhere in life. That’s a great lesson to learn as young adults moving forward.”
Chaniqua Gilliam, a senior guard, believes King’s words will continue to resonate.
“He’s done so much for people of color, people who look like me,” she said. “To see someone who has left such a long-lasting impact, it shows hope.”
Caitlin Wingertzahn, a junior forward, admires the strength and resolve King showed as he risked his life for the betterment of others.
“He put himself in the limelight and in a lot of danger,” she said. “But the work he did has really make an impact on who we are as a society today and what we can do. I’m very, very appreciative of everything he did.”
Anders Nelson, a grad student point guard on the men’s basketball team, admires the leadership King showed in the face of strong opposition.
“He’s one of the greatest leaders to ever walk this planet,” Nelson said. “He said to fight for what was right but do it in a peaceful manner. And everything he preached about and lived is more relevant now than ever.”
Noah Collier and Chris Mullins, two members of the men’s basketball team, both are inspired by a particular quote King gave during a sermon on Christmas Day 1957: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“That can be applied in many different aspects of life,” Collier said. “Positive thoughts and affirmation usually leads to success, especially in times when things aren’t going your way. Instead of fighting fire with fire, maybe fight fire with love.”
“That’s a very inspirational quote to me for how I live to this day,” Mullins added. “I try to bring light and happiness to any situation I’m in.”