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Basheer Jones

Basheer Jones

Photographer: Chris Franz

Basheer Jones

Basheer Jones speaks to the capacity crowd at Monday's brunch

Photographer: Chris Franz

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Basheer Jones brings powerful message to MLK Jr. Brunch


Basheer Jones, the keynote speaker at the 13th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Brunch on Monday, captivated his large audience immediately with powerful spoken word pieces and tales from his childhood in Cleveland.

As a motivational speaker and author, Jones uses his love for the spoken and written word to reach people across the nation. He repeatedly tied his message to quotes from King.

Jones, 28, said gratefulness is the medicine for the anger in the world and challenged all in attendance to appreciate the blessings in life.

"If we want to live the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. it will not be a life of comfort or convenience," Jones said. "We have to speak up and speak out against the things we know are wrong."

The key to accomplishing that, according to Jones, depends on understanding the people you are trying to change. The four E's that make up this understanding are environment, exposure, experience, and education.

"The fact that every inner city looks the same means this is not a black or white thing," Jones said. "It's a human issue … and we have been desensitized. You can't change anything until you are angry about it. Dr. King was definitely upset."

Jones explained that King's legacy is so great that even in his death he is alive, and that the messages that he and his contemporaries championed have not died with them. But, we may have stopped listening, he said. He raised the point that if people have to look past the current generation to the days of King to find leadership, there may be a problem.

Jones' final challenge for the student audience was to serve everybody, understand that despite any situation everyone has a right to exist simply because they are alive. He encouraged that the best kind of service is that like abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery through the underground railroad but then went back to help free other slaves. He said that a million dollars is not required to give back, and that a simple donation of time or a smile could make the difference in someone's world.

"Find some high school students and be their role models," Jones said.

In addition to Jones, Student groups Anointed Ministries and the Athens Black Contemporary Dancers performed during the luncheon and Athens City Mayor Paul Wiehl and Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis greeted the audience.

This is the fourth year that Ohio University has celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. day with a series of activities. The men of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. hosted the brunch as well as the silent march that preceded it.

The final MLK Jr. Celebration events are today and include a MLK Jr. Speak Out, where students and faculty can publicly discuss a variety of social issues and a celebration of the arts. For more information, visit the Diversity and Inclusion website.