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Jim Lucas gave some memorable recitations of King's most famous speeches during the brunch

Photographer: Robin Hecker

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Jerry Mobley, Tyrin Rome, William E. Johnson and other members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity lead a silent march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 19

Photographer: Robin Hecker

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President Roderick J. McDavis speaks during the 15th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Brunch in Baker University Center Ballroom on Monday, Jan. 19

Photographer: Robin Hecker

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Martin Luther King Jr. brunch speakers inspire audience

Holiday events kicked off MLK Celebration week


More than 250 people gathered in the Baker University Center Ballroom on Monday, Jan. 19, to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the annual Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Brunch at Ohio University.

The fraternity annually hosts the Martin Luther King Jr. Silent March and Brunch on the slain civil rights leader's national holiday. King was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis ignited the capacity audience during his welcome talk. His message was that "all life matters," regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender.

"We must as a world come to a consensus that we as people must collectively find a way to lay down our arms," McDavis said. "To respect life, to respect one another and to always value human life. If Martin Luther King was here today, he would challenge us to value human life."

McDavis said Ohio University is a beloved community.

"We as a community must value one another," McDavis said. "Whether you are a staff worker, faculty member, administrator or student, you are a valued member of this community."

McDavis urged the crowd to start honoring Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream by treating everyone with respect.

"We as a collective must rise up and live out the dream of Martin Luther King," McDavis said. "Let today be that day."

McDavis ended his talk by inviting everyone to participate in Tuesday's Campus Conversation about racial dynamics and inequality event and Thursday's Coffee with a Cop event.

Jim Lucas, a professional actor and speaker from Louisiana, has become nationally known for reciting King's most famous speeches word-for-word while looking and sounding like him.

Lucas started his keynote presentation by explaining how the Black Civil Rights Movement began in the mid-’50s and how King, a young preacher at the time, became involved in it.

Lucas said King was arrested about 24 times during the movement and that is where he wrote the famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

He pointed out that in the letter King wrote the famous quotes, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," and "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."

After explaining how the Aug. 23, 1963, March on Washington came about, Lucas enthusiastically recited a portion of King's "I Have a Dream" speech. He also talked about the history behind the famous Selma, Ala., march and how it grew from about 600 people to more than 20,000 by the time it reached the state capital in Montgomery, Ala.

Lucas vividly described King's final days in Memphis where he would be assassinated on April 4, 1968. He said King appeared to know his days were numbered even before that when on Feb. 4, 1968, in his last sermon to his Atlanta-based Ebenezer Baptist Church, he talked about how he wanted to be remembered.

During the sermon, King told his congregation that he didn't want a long funeral or have all of his awards and accomplishments read to the crowd, including his Nobel Peace Prize. Instead he wanted to be remembered for serving others, loving people, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners and serving humanity. King said he wanted to be remembered as a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.

The day before his death, King delivered his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech in Memphis. Lucas ended his presentation by reciting a key portion of that speech, impersonating King's voice and mannerisms. This final recitation earned a standing ovation from the capacity crowd.

Allison Hunter, editor-in-chief at WOUB, said the brunch was both powerful and inspiring.

"I enjoyed this event because it was the perfect mixture of celebration, education and motivation," Hunter said. "It motivated us to move forward as one community. I thought Dr. McDavis' talk brought the spirit of Martin Luther King's message alive and empowered us to embrace and respect each other."

Athens Middle School eighth-grader Rhys Carr said he also enjoyed the brunch.

"I enjoyed it because the talks and performances were educational and entertaining," Carr said. "I definitely want to come back next year."

In addition to the speakers, the audience was treated to performances from the Athens Black Contemporary Dancers and Anointed Praise, a choral group made up of Ohio University students.

The brunch was preceded by the annual silent march, which attracted more than 150 people to College Green. The march, which is held in honor of the brave individuals who risked their lives to march for equality in America during the Black Civil Rights Movement, traveled from the front of Galbreath Chapel on College Green to the fourth-floor entrance of Baker University Center.

Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration events continue throughout this week. For a complete listing of MLK Jr. Celebration Planning Committee events, visit http://www.ohio.edu/diversity/mlk/.