Guest speaker Quay Hanna visits for MLK day

by Olivia La Bianca

Online Editor

Quay Hanna, a speaker, consultant, and writer from Strasburg, PA, visited Messiah College on Tuesday as the college’s MLK Day chapel speaker.

His message focused on his own experiences transitioning from a man with racist and prejudiced views to an advocate for equality, social justice, and the pursuit of a unified church. Using the book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together at the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum and several Bible passages as references, he asked about “the temptation to sit with people like you”. Hanna said this mentality is prevalent in the church.

“Is this what the church should look like?” he asked. “Should it be segregated and homogenous? It shouldn’t. We should unify around trust in Jesus, and skin color doesn’t affect that.”

He also honored local civil rights hero, James Jones. Jones was the first black quarterback to play in the Rose Bowl. His success in football, Hanna said, affected race relations in a positive way. “He works in a junior high school helping at-risk kids make it through school. He shows no partiality. He loves his neighbor as himself.”

Hanna was initially invited at the suggestion of last year’s speaker, Dr. Terence Roberts, who is a supporter of Hanna’s work. Hanna has given a lot of MLK speeches at colleges like Lebanon Valley and Shippensburg.

He is also the first white MLK chapel speaker Messiah College has hosted for a while. With the possibility of skepticism or negative feedback from the student body, Hanna addressed the college with humor tinged with earnestness. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m white,” he said. He then called upon Dr. King’s own words: “I love his quote: ‘Someday our children will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’ Would he have envisioned a middle-aged white guy commemorating him? No, but I think it’s exactly what he would want.” Hanna said that he has not met with any negative feedback thus far.

In an interview with the Pulse, Hanna gave his own testimony and explained what MLK Day meant to him. “[King] did something incredible, and it took a very special man to do it. But he was not without flaws, sins. I like that people don’t shy away from his failures, but also don’t miss the fact that he was critical at this hinge-point in American history. I love speaking for King day, and I think it’s a very powerful statement when a white person does it. To me, it kind of shows how it’s come full circle in some ways.”

As far as what MLK Day should mean to the church and to Messiah students, Hanna focused on explaining the value of impartiality and community. “I meet to talk with 15-year-old black females from the city, and a lot of times people say: ‘You have nothing in common with them’. That’s what you’re missing. You don’t have to connect completely or know everything, because the bottom line is that people want to talk to you about their lives. If you express interest, you’d be shocked by how many bridges you can cross …. You just need to open the door for people to have conversations with you, and you build from there.”

If you are interested in learning more about Quay Hanna, you can visit his website here.

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