The Sun Does Shine: UVU Welcomes Anthony Ray Hinton as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, hundreds of attendees from Utah Valley University logged onto a virtual call on Wednesday with former death-row convict Anthony Ray Hinton.

   

Above: UVU students participate in Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities in 2019

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, hundreds of attendees from Utah Valley University logged onto a virtual call on Wednesday with former death-row convict Anthony Ray Hinton. Author of the New York Times bestselling book “The Sun Does Shine,” Hinton spent an hour speaking in depth about his experiences on death row and with the American judicial system. He also answered questions from the online audience consisting of UVU students, staff, faculty, and community members.

Hinton was falsely convicted of two murders in 1985 in Birmingham, Alabama, and served 28 years on death row until his release in 2015. He published “The Sun Does Shine” in 2018.

Hinton’s book was selected this year as the reading book for the Freshman Reading Program at UVU. Each freshman received a copy and read it for their introductory courses. After reading his story, these freshmen were able to hear from Hinton himself and ask him further questions about his experiences.

Noemy Medina, director of First-Year Experience and Student Retention at UVU, spoke of the significance of Hinton’s visit. “It was clear at our freshman book discussion this fall that there is a lot of student interest in discussing the issues and themes highlighted in Mr. Hinton’s book,” Medina said, “many of which are like those Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his life to.”

The keynote began with an introduction from Jerome Currelly, program director for the African Diaspora Initiative at UVU, and remarks from UVU President Astrid S. Tuminez. Hinton began his speech by acknowledging the racial issues that exist around the world in places such as Palestine, Brazil, and here in the United States.

“I wish I could tell you the state of Alabama made an honest mistake,” Hinton said. “I wish I could tell you that being black and poor had nothing to do with me spending 30 years in a five-by-seven cell. But the state of Alabama did not make an honest mistake.”

Hinton’s speech reflected Dr. King’s sentiments and beliefs. He encouraged all listeners to appreciate freedom and the chance to live life in whichever way they please. He spoke of the existence of racism in modern society and the dangers of racism within the judicial system.

“We are not dealing with mass incarceration,” Hinton said. “We are dealing with a new form of slavery.”

After his speech, audience members asked Hinton questions through a live chat portal. One student asked the question, “How have you managed to move forward with your life after such a horrific experience?”

Hinton responded, “I want people to realize I am still deeply scarred. I forgave those men who did this to me so I could be free. I didn’t forgive them so that they could sleep through the night. I forgave them so that I could sleep through the night.”

After answering a few more questions, Hinton wrapped up his speech by quoting Dr. King. “We fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. We speak for those who don’t have a voice for themselves,” Hinton said. “I was once one of those people who couldn’t fight for themselves and speak for themselves.”

The program was then completed with a conclusion by Mohamed Eftin, secretary of the Black Student Union at UVU.