Those who attended the ninth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at Texas A&M University on Thursday morning had the opportunity to hear a sprawling conversation that touched on several issues including perception, the importance of information and how racism has evolved over the past 50 years.
The event, which was hosted by the MSC Carter G. Woodson Black Awareness Committee, featured a panel discussion with comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory and actress Amanda Seales. The discussion was moderated by Phia Salter, an assistant professor in Texas A&M's department of psychology.
Seales replaced Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza, whom event officials said had to pull out of the breakfast for "personal reasons."
Throughout the event, both Seales and Gregory urged the audience to always pursue information as a guide to "give them direction" in their activism.
"There is so much information out here," Gregory said. "It is incredible."
Seales called it a "cornerstone" of activism, especially for young people.
"Once you have the information, it's not possible for you to be still," Seales said. "You can't just go home and play PlayStation."
Gregory, who rose to national prominence in the 1960s, explained that in addition to being a tool for seeking truth, information is also important in determining what is truth and what is perception.
"All over the world people know what's going on except here, especially when it comes to racism and sexism," Gregory said.
He said it takes the steady work of educated people armed with information to make a real change in the world.
While both panelists agreed the Internet is a valuable resource for sharing and learning information, they also said it has allowed for a trend of "faceless racism" on social media.
"You can be a Klansman on Twitter because your hood is just not having a picture," Seales said. "[Racism] manifests itself in a different way today."
She continued that over the years, racism has evolved to become "smarter, just like our technology."
Gregory, who agreed with Seales, said once the day comes that people can "no longer understand white supremacy, you can kiss it goodbye."
Opening the event, Texas A&M President Michael Young recalled a few of the interactions he has had with civil rights leaders and activists in the past, noting that one conversation with the Rev. Jesse Jackson last year had particularly struck him.
In it, Young said that Jackson emphasized "there isn't a talent gap here in the United States, there is an opportunity gap."
"I believe it is our obligation to eliminate that gap, to celebrate as we do today the great legacy of Dr. King, to celebrate and to commemorate his courage, his values, what he represented and what he stood for," Young said. "That becomes important as we as Aggies create an environment where everybody is welcomed and everybody has the opportunity to realize their best potential."