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MLK Jr. Brunch speaker tells audience to tear down walls, not build them [PHOTOS]

View photos from campus events hosted throughout Jan. 21-26

The 2019 Ohio University Martin Luther King Jr. weeklong celebration, which carried the theme, “King’s Vision: Humanity tied in a Single Garment of Destiny,” was kicked off for the 10th consecutive year by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity-sponsored Silent March and Brunch.

On Monday, Jan. 21, more than 200 people, including Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis and first lady, Ruthie Nellis, participated in the Silent March, which began at Galbreath Chapel on College Green and ended at the fourth floor entrance of Baker University Center.

After the march, many of the participants attended the Brunch in the Baker University Center Ballroom.

This year’s brunch keynote speaker was Basheer S. Jones, a Cleveland-based political activist and city councilman who, like Dr. King, is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and an alumnus of Morehouse College in Atlanta. Before he spoke, Athens City Mayor Steve Patterson encouraged the audience to never waver, just like Dr. King.

“As we wander our way through current social issues, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. never gave up and we shouldn’t either,” Mayor Patterson said. “We need to stay steadfast. We need to stay the course because nothing makes our lives richer than working together and accepting others for who they are.”

President Nellis encouraged the audience to continue on with the causes that Dr. King believed in.

“Dr. King shared his belief that humankind is inherently good, and through peaceful, civil conversations – hearts and minds could be changed,” President Nellis said. “Dr. King said, ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’”

During his talk, Jones told the audience members that they should strive to live after they die.

“We must all ask ourselves will we live after we die. Not in the physical sense, but people you are striving to impact – will they still say your name after you die?” Jones asked.

He said the ancient Egyptians believed that you died your second death when the last person you impacted stops saying your name.

“Every year, we are constantly saying Dr. King’s name,” Jones said.

He called Dr. King a very powerful man who was considered one of the most dangerous men in the world when he was alive. Why?

“Because when you can change the way people look at things, you are dangerous,” Jones said.

He then challenged the students to pursue more than a college degree.

“Did you come here just to get a degree or did you come here to change what is here?” Jones asked. “What will they say when you are gone? If all they say is that you had A's and B's, that isn't sufficient. What will you do to change the landscape of this University?”

Jones said as Americans we need to tear down walls and not build them.

“How can we say we love Dr. King when we are not implementing the courage that he had?” Jones asked. “You're not trying to live the life that Dr. King lived! Why? Because that's a scary life that he lived. It's scary to be the only voice in the room.”

Jones quoted Mother Teresa to further explain his point.

"She said, ‘It only takes one person to be courageous. The one person that is courageous is the majority,’” Jones said. “I ask you, are you striving to be the majority? Life's most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?”

In closing, he said America was built on the backs of immigrants and refugees and that is what makes it great.

"How can you say you are religious and hate?” Jones asked. “Why do you believe for one second that God is only for you? If you love Dr. King, you must be for all people. Don't be Dr. King only on his birthday. Strive to live his life all throughout the year, just be yourself and tap into your humanity."

The University’s MLK Jr. Celebration, which is sponsored by the Office for Diversity and Inclusion each year, continued throughout the week with at least one event each day through Saturday, Jan. 26. Take a look at some of the best photos:

Silent March

Members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, senior Earl Hopkins (left) and junior O'Neal Saunders (right) lead the annual Silent March down Court Street on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. Photo by Ben Siegel. 

Jan Griesinger leads marchers

Jan Griesinger, a retired former director at United Campus Ministry in Athens, holds a Black Lives Matter sign as she leads a second wave of silent marchers during the Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, MLK Jr. Silent March on College Green. Photo by Ben Siegel.  

silent march

Dr. Amritjit Singh, the Langston Hughes Professor of English and African American Studies at Ohio University, speaks to the audience before the start of the Silent March on Jan. 21, 2019. While at the podium, he read a writing by Langston Hughes, the late African-American writer, social activist and poet. Photo by Ben Siegel.

Basheer Jones

Basheer S. Jones, Cleveland city councilman and social activist, delivered a powerful speech to the MLK Jr. Brunch audience in Baker University Center Ballroom on Jan. 21, 2019. A graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, he told the audience that the "medicine for our anger is gratefulness. No matter what is happening to us, we have to be grateful." He said it's a blessing that we're still here living, not that death is a punishment, but life allows us an opportunity to do more. Photo by Hannah Ruhoff.

Kenneth Clement table at brunch

High school students from Cleveland's Kenneth W. Clement Boys Leadership Academy attended the Brunch on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. They traveled to Athens with their principal, OHIO alumnus Derrick Holifield. A member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Holifield delivered a spoken word piece during the event. Photo by Hannah Ruhoff.


Members of the OHIO student dance groups, MarvelOUs and ABCD, perform a collaboration piece at the MLK Jr. Celebration Brunch on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. Photo by Hannah Ruhoff.

Black Excellence Panel

Alumni Brandon Thompson (seated table left), Nicole Antoinette Smith (seated table right) and Erial Ramsey (screen) shared their career paths and took questions from the audience during the Black Excellence Panel. The first-year event was held on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in the Amanda J. Cunningham Leadership Center in Baker University Center. Thompson, an Athens native, is one of the most popular DJs in the area. Smith is a lecturer in Analytics and Information Systems in the OHIO College of Business. Ramsey is an entrepreneur who serves as a motivational speaker. Photo by Chris Kennedy.


Dorsey Blake

Rev. Dr. Dorsey Odell Blake, a faculty associate for leadership and social transformation at the Pacific School of Religion, delivered “King’s Vision: An Essential Alternative to Now,” at Galbreath Chapel on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. During his Faith Acts event talk, he addressed social justice and peace issues and took questions from the audience. Dr. Blake is a former director of United Campus Ministry in Athens. Photo by George E. Mauzy Jr.

MLK Arts Cypher

Section Eight, the first contemporary a cappella group on the Athens Campus, performs during the inaugural MLK Jr. Arts Cypher in Baker University Center Theatre on Jan. 25, 2019. This talent showcase featured poets, singers and dancers. Photo by Hannah Ruhoff.

MLK basketball game

More than 20 OHIO staff and students played in the MLK Jr. Charity Basketball Game in Ping Center on Jan. 24. The event collected canned goods and personal items for the Ohio University Cats Cupboard food pantry. Photo by Hannah Ruhoff.