LEWISTON — Bates College alumnus Marshall Hatch Jr. was back in town Jan. 15 to help his alma mater kick off its Martin Luther King Jr. Day events.

Since graduating in 2010, Hatch took a job at Bates as an admissions counselor before returning home to West Garfield Park in Chicago for a job at Urban Prep Academies. He reconnected with Bowdoin College alumnus Zulmarie Bosques, whom he’d met in Maine. The two married in 2018.

Hatch attended University of Chicago for a double master’s in divinity and social work, became an ordained minister and started contributing from the pulpit at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church following in his father Marshall Hatch Sr.’s footsteps. The two founded MAAFA Redemption Project in 2017. MAAFA, “a great disaster” in Kiswahili and now synonymous with the plight of the African slave trade, is a life skills and job training program helping at-risk young men come to terms with their situations and communities’ conditions.

Hatch, an academic standout and presence on the Bobcat basketball court, said his return to Lewiston and the Bates campus for Martin Luther King Jr. Day was wonderful. He said the first memories to flood back were of basketball and all the meaningful and lasting relationships he made on the Bobcat court.

“It was a huge part of my growth as an individual,” he said. “That along with being part of the Mays Men and Gospelaires. So, being back on campus is an amazing feeling.”

Mays Men honors Bates alum Benjamin Mays. He was a generation older than King and played a big part behind the scenes of the civil rights movement helping young African-American men become a force for change in their communities.


Much like Mays, also a University of Chicago alum, Hatch said he sees himself less as a force for change and more as part of a grand continuum of fighting for freedom, justice and liberty. “I play a very small part, but it does give me purpose and meaning to be a part of it.”

Bates College alumnus Marshall Hatch Jr. opens Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Bates College on Sunday, Jan. 15, in Lewiston by introducing the documentary “All These Sons.” Joe Charpentier/Sun Journal

“(Mays’) legacy is the reason I do what I do every day in Chicago. … He was a huge pillar in the background developing leaders, developing strategy, undergirding the philosophy. So that’s how I kind of saw myself when I read his autobiography ‘Born to Rebel’: … Not as someone in the spotlight, but building institutions, building people. That’s why I do what I do.”

Lewiston-Auburn experienced an influx of Somali refugees during Hatch’s junior and senior years. He said he remembers a lot of  conflict resulting from “the other,” a term coined by the late Columbia professor Edward Said, which refers to people characterized by another society’s outside view of their culture, traditions and norms.

“We as human beings are inherently tribal. It’s in our DNA. It’s a part of the funk of what it means to be human,” said Hatch.

Harmony among Lewiston’s many communities will have to come from learning the “timeless lessons of empathy,” he said, when people listen to each other and “see each other as we see ourselves and treat each other as we treat ourselves.”

The challenge, said Hatch: How can people follow the golden rule when life is full of so much inner turmoil?


Mays and King recognized the personal turmoil so many face, and realized the importance of a life focused on improving yourself and improving your connections to other human beings and society at large, Hatch said.

“We don’t necessarily make those connections, but I think we should and I think we should talk about them more to understand what has happened to us for a way forward,” he said. Referring to the political divisions of the past two decades as examples, he said, “We have to understand that just because we might vote differently, it doesn’t mean we’re enemies.”

Self-improvement, said Hatch, includes acknowledging the problems caused by society’s refusal to embrace and redeem history which, when confronted and faced truthfully, gets at the root of the problem. Hatch cited the perception that violent crime has increased dramatically in many of the nation’s cities as an example of challenges communities face.

While homelessness and the opioid epidemic are persistent in the Lewiston-Auburn area, reports of violent crime have risen only slightly over the past several years while overall crime reports have fallen dramatically over the past quarter century (1995-2020): about a 70% drop for Lewiston, a 33% decline for Auburn and nearly 66% for Androscoggin County. So, why is there a perception among many that crime has gotten worse?

One of the many answers to that question, Hatch said, is the role that “othering” plays and the connections some people try to make between skin color and crime — a phenomenon that has a long and well-documented history. In other words, the perception crime has gotten worse in the Lewiston-Auburn area may just be another example of division being sewn by those with ulterior motives.

“I’m an idealist, but I’m not naïve. I understand that at the core of a lot of conflict is the struggle for power and resources. … Political charlatans pit communities against each other because it’s politically expedient,” Hatch said. It’s how they try to empower themselves.


As economic and political strife continue to put the squeeze on working and middle class families regardless of skin color, seeds of discord are sewn to widen the breaches across communities, Hatch said. That’s why communities that are built across racial, ethnic and socioeconomic lines need intentional spaces to cultivate listening and understanding and those spaces need to continue to grow, he said.

After the murder of George Floyd, a “diversity inclusion movement” or a “celebration of difference” began, which is where change starts, said Hatch. Parents’ conversations with their children should acknowledge, not shy away from, the differences they have with others because those differences make society more healthy and beautiful. Then, focusing on the similarities people have with one another helps prevent getting caught up in the differences.

“It all comes from a place even deeper than education — it’s a moral, ethical and spiritual problem at the root of it.”

Hatch said this is a lot of the guidance he tries to provide to the young men of west side Chicago. His philosophy and spirituality have grown through his time at Bates as a Mays Man, through his pursuit of the ministry and social work at UChicago, through the church, marriage and fatherhood and throughout his work with MAAFA.

He said he’s given public office some thought — the seventh congressional district of Illinois, specifically — but his calling will always be leading people to the church and, in terms of a public witness, sharing with people that salvation lies in the principles at the root of democracy: liberty, fairness and justice.

“What will always ground me is that I am the grandson and son of a preacher. My grandfather was part of the great migration northward — born in a place called Amory, Mississippi — to Chicago. He became a pastor and served 42 years in a small church on the west side Chicago. This year will mark my father’s 30th anniversary as a pastor in West Garfield Park. … If I could just be a fraction of who those men were in peoples’ lives, I think I would have lived a successful and meaningful life. That’s what I want people to know, is at that core, I’m the grandson and son of a preacher. That’s all I ever want to be.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.