Activist Daryl Davis kicks Off DreamWeek with Heartfelt Message

Daryl Davis holds up the overturned robe of former Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, Roger Kelly on Jan. 5 during the DreamWeek kickoff. (Photo, Patricio Calvo)

It was in 1968, 50 years ago that Daryl Davis committed himself to understanding his enemies, and treating them with love, opposite of the animosity dealt upon him.

An actor, musician and social activist, Davis  is known for convincing more than 200 members of the Klu Klux Klan to leave the 150-year nationwide hate group, and hang up their robes for good. In a keynote speech kicking off DreamWeek 2018, Davis spoke to local movers and shakers about his experience with the hate group, often getting to know them on a personal level, overseeing the exterior.

Davis is from the suburbs of Boston Massachusetts, at a young age he remarked that he was one of two of the only black children attending his elementary school. It was here where he joined the Boy Scouts. One day when marching from Lexington to Concord in his scout troop, commemorating the historic ride of Paul Revere, Davis witnessed racism firsthand.

“Somewhere down the parade route, as I was marching with my fellow scouts, I began getting hit with bottles and rocks and other debris by a small group of white spectators.” Davis shared with the crowd. “My parents never lied to me, but on this day, in 1968, at the age of 10, when they told me why I was being targeted like this, I literally thought my parents were lying to me.”

Davis couldn’t believe that someone could hate him just because of the color of his skin. He manifested a personal saying that would later inspire him to take on the oldest and largest hate group in the United States, “How can you hate me, when you don’t even know me?”

Davis placed his platform to take on the KKK solely based on getting Klan members to know a black man, face to face.

After revisiting a degree in music, Davis ended up in Maryland one late night, playing piano for a country band. At the end of his set a bar patron asked to buy Davis a drink. The man Davis met in the bar told him that was first time he had a drink with a black man.

“When I asked him why he said ‘Because I’m a member of the Klu-Klux-Klan.’” Davis couldn’t believe him, he even laughed at the statement.

“But then he showed me his Klan card, and I stopped smiling,” Davis recalled.

Davis kept in contact with the Klan member, who would later be his connection to meeting Grand Wizard Roger Kelly.

It was a slow dragging road, that included years and years of Davis befriending a man whose life’s dedication was to hate him and his entire race by visiting one another’s homes. Davis would even attend public Klan meetings, revered at some as a guest. Until finally, Roger Kelly a Grand Wizard of the KKK turned over his robe to Davis, and left a life and system that bred hate.

Many former members of the KKK gave their robes to Davis, a literal symbol of retiring from a life of ignorance, intolerance and racism.

Throughout the speech, Davis reiterated multiple times to build relations and begin conversations, and listen to each side and point of view, and that understanding and listening is the key to changing minds and creating unity among masses.

“Folks, we are living in the 21st century. We are living in space age times, but there’s still too many of us thinking with stone age minds.” Davis exclaimed in his closing remarks.

Applause roared and filled the room as every guest stood in praise and awe of the tale just relayed to them. Davis was gifted a portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King and lingered in the crowd to meet and greet and take photos.

With the room dispersing, DreamWeek had officially kicked off and for the next 15 days downtown will be filled with unity inspiring events that will educate the public in compassion, and listening to one another’s arguments, disagreements, and to meet a middle ground.