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Saturday, Nov 01, 2014

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MLK-1

Jordan Tyner, Derrick Holifield, Brandon Chestnut and Jerry Mobley of the Phi Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity lead Ohio University students and faculty in a silent march on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Photographer: Olivia Wallace

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Keynote speaker Fredrick Harris, professor of political science and director of the Center on African-American Politics and Society at Columbia University, speaks at the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebratory Brunch.

Photographer: Olivia Wallace

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Janae Potts, Betsy Oellermann and Raven Reid, members of the Athens Black Contemporary Dancers, perform at the 14th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebratory Brunch.

Photographer: Olivia Wallace

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Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy honored at silent march, celebratory brunch


“Let us not forget that this day really symbolizes what a man gave his life for, what a great American contributed to society, what ideals he espoused, what values he stood for and what he committed to the cause.”

That was the message Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis delivered in his opening remarks at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebratory Brunch, held in the Baker University Center Ballroom.

OHIO’s weeklong celebration honoring civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy kicked off Monday morning with the MLK Jr. Silent March followed by the brunch, which was hosted by the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. The theme of this year’s celebration is “OHIO’s Legacy: Living the Dream.”

Fredrick Harris, professor of political science and director of the Center on African-American Politics and Society at Columbia University, was the keynote speaker at the brunch. His research interests include the studies of race and politics in America, political participation, social movements, religion, political development and African-American politics.

Harris delivered an inspiring speech in which he spoke of civil rights activists such as King, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin, an American writer whose work focused on the black experience in America and explored both racial and social inequities.

Emphasizing that racism still persists today, Harris noted Baldwin’s ideals in particular and the notion that we must recognize the past in order to change our country, which Baldwin referred to as “a house that was built by race.”

“The nation’s architects laid a foundation rooted in slavery and capitalism,” said Harris. “The foundation of the house has lasted far longer than the tools that were used to dismantle the most egregious practices of racial subordination.”

Harris spoke of this house built by race and the seemingly impossible task of dismantling it; however, he also expressed a message of hope as he shared the words of Baldwin.

“If we … do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare and achieve our country and change the history of the world.”

Raven Reid, a first-year student majoring in child life studies, shared her excitement in attending the event for the first time both as a guest and as a performer with the Athens Black Contemporary Dancers.

“I think that it’s important for people to reflect on who Martin Luther King Jr. was and all that he did, especially on this day,” said Reid. ”I think Ohio University has done a great job in honoring that, and I would love to be a part of this as either a dancer or in any other way in the future.”

Among the distinguished guests at Monday’s brunch was a delegation from the Ministry of Education and Skills Development in the Republic of Botswana. The delegation is visiting the Athens Campus this week, and McDavis took the opportunity at the brunch to welcome the group to Ohio University and to talk briefly about the growing partnership between OHIO and Botswana.

Labane E. Mokgosi, director of international marketing and business development for the Botswana Education Hub, spoke of the positive experience he was having during his first trip to OHIO. He also spoke about what he hoped people would take away from Monday’s brunch and the week as a whole, noting that he would love to be a part of these celebrations at OHIO in the years to come.

“I hope that it will refresh our minds on the history of America, especially since the 1960s and the time of Martin Luther King Jr., and I hope people will see it as a celebration of how far we have come and where we are going,” said Mokgosi.

McDavis noted that while our country has by no means eradicated racism, celebrations recognizing the legacies of activists like King are perfect opportunities to work toward doing so.

“We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet,” said McDavis. “Today’s gathering provides an opportunity for us to be revitalized, rejuvenated and recommitted to answer the call to service.”

McDavis stated that King’s work encompassed “a simple idea that somehow, someway all of us could learn how to live together, to work together, to be one.”

Those attending Monday’s brunch were treated to a group performances from student organizations across campus as well as a video that paid tribute to the lives and work of late social activist Nelson Mandela and Amiri Baraka, an African-American writer who spent a great deal of his life fighting for the rights of African Americans. The event also included a musical performance by Anointed Praise, a choral group made up of Ohio University students.

Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration events continue throughout this week. For a full list of events, visit http://www.ohio.edu/diversity/mlk/.