Creativity in Unity: Durryle Brooks Inspires at Annual MLK Celebration

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Colgate University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration kicked off on Jan. 25 with a keynote address from Durryle Brooks, PhD, founder of Love and Justice Consulting LLC.

The event, organized by the ALANA Cultural Center and the Office of the Dean of the College, set the tone for a week of reflection, engagement, and exploration on the theme “Creativity in Unity.” It began with an introduction from Rhoman Elvis ’25 and a performance of the Black National Anthem by Blessed Jimoh ’24. Esther Rosbrook, director of the ALANA Cultural Center, set the stage and introduced Brooks.

A trailblazer in LGBT African American history, Brooks shared his experiences and perspectives on the transformative power of love as understood through his examination of the sermons of Martin Luther King Jr.

“I feel as though MLK is my personal mentor despite his being assassinated many years before my birth,” Brooks shared.

Drawing inspiration from King’s 1967 speech outlining the three sins of the country — racism, excess materialism, and militarism — Brooks delved into the theme of love as a means to combat societal challenges. He emphasized the centrality of love to the human experience, invoking King’s words, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only love can do that.” And he challenged the audience to consider love not merely as an interpersonal emotion but as the mutual co-construction of full personhood.

In the interactive session that followed his speech, Brooks encouraged those gathered in the chapel to engage in a collective pause, reflect on their motivations for attending, and personally define love. “What is love to the oppressed?” inquired Brooks. “What is love to the socially marginalized? What is love to the person who has been pushed to the margins of society, left out, exploited, and manipulated?”

With the remainder of his time, Brooks turned toward understanding the political nature of love. Through personal anecdotes and academic insights, he argued that love, when unexamined, can become a tool of oppression.

“At the intersection of love and oppression is where we can find a love drought,” explained Brooks. “So many of us operate and walk around so desperate for affirmation that we actually dry up. We are deprived, become desperate, and finally desiccate. To fix a love drought, a person must be treated much in the same way that a desiccated plant is treated with water: the person must be submerged in love.”

In addition to the keynote, the MLK Week celebration was packed with events designed to engage the Colgate community in meaningful dialogue and action. Programming included a unity dinner, a day of community service, a Social Justice Summit, an Interfaith Creativity in Justice Dialogue, and a Sunday Service. As MLK Week drew to a close, Rosbrook led reflections on creativity and innovation in justice and on King’s vision of a more equitable and inclusive society.