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At HCC, 'Martin and Malcolm' offer perspectives on civil rights

April 16, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Guests at a Tuesday night program at Hagerstown Community College were invited to transport themselves back in time to not only observe, but participate, in a hypothetical conversation between two influential civil rights leaders.

On the stage of the college's Classroom Building auditorium, actors Bill Grimmette and Charles Everett Pace stepped into the shoes of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, respectively, for a moderated discussion about the leaders' philosophical differences, then fielded questions from the audience, both in character and out.

In opening speeches, the Malcolm X character explained his belief in the need for blacks to unite and be willing to fight to protect their rights and dignity, while the King character explained his theory of nonviolence, arguing that "if everybody subscribes to the theory of an eye for an eye, it will leave everybody blind."

As the discussion continued, the characters touched on other differences, such as whether integration is a worthy and realistic goal and whether the rhetoric should be broadened to talk of "human rights" to encourage international participation.

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The event, co-hosted by the Washington County Free Library, was part of the Maryland Humanities Council's initiative, "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Remembrance and Reconciliation."

Afterward, the actors offered their own perspectives on their characters' impact in the context of current race relations.

Grimmette said looking back on the speed with which changes such as school desegregation were implemented, he deemed the movement a success despite the difficult logistics involved.

"When I think back on it, things could not have moved any more quickly than they did, and the changes could not be more profound," he said.

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