Ohio University

OHIO celebrates legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Published: January 21, 2021 Author: Images by Ben Siegel

Ohio University hosted a Silent March and Drive-in Brunch Monday to kick off its 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration week. 

The events were sponsored by the University’s Division of Diversity & Inclusion and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
 

Jaylen Braxton of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., welcomes participants
Jaylen Braxton, president of Phi Chapter, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., speaks at Galbreath Memorial Chapel prior to the 2021 Silent March, held on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and in honor of the civil rights leader.

Monday’s events began at Galbreath Chapel, where Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity President Jaylen Braxton welcomed attendees. Fraternity members led participants on a Silent March through the Ohio University campus. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of participants were limited and attendees were asked to follow social distancing guidelines to ensure health and safety. 

The Silent March was live streamed on social media and at the companion Drive-in Brunch, held at Peden Stadium. Participants ate breakfast in their vehicles while watching a program that featured OHIO alumna Jericka Duncan, ’05, an Emmy-award winning CBS News journalist. 
 

Ohio University student Taj Haley attends the Silent March.
Ohio University student Taj Haley attends the Silent March.

Travis Gatling and Vanessa Morgan-Nai, co-chairs of this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, welcomed University and community guests and introduced the theme of this year’s celebration, “Constructive Tensions.” According to the celebration website, “It is through the inherent presence of constructive tension within our activism that we are able to grow and gain awareness of our differences, shared struggles, and triumphs.”
 

Catherine Cutcher, assistant director for undergraduate programs in the Center for International Studies, attends the Silent March.
Catherine Cutcher, assistant director for undergraduate programs in the Center for International Studies, attends the Silent March.

Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis addressed current events and issues facing the nation, noting that Dr. King believed in taking action in the face of injustice. 

“Ohio University is committed to diversity, inclusion and equality. We must work to promote and advocate for social justice throughout our communities. We can do this through our policies and programs, but we also must show it through our individual actions. We all must work for change, no matter who we are or where we are,” President Nellis said. 
 

Members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity lead participants through the Ohio University College Green on the Silent March.
Members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity lead participants through the Ohio University College Green on the Silent March.

President Nellis praised the efforts of the University’s Division of Diversity & Inclusion, which is led by Vice President Gigi Secuban. Dr. Secuban addressed the long history of student engagement and activism on issues of race, recalling how in 1965, OHIO students joined John Lewis and other freedom fighters for the Selma to Montgomery marches. In the late 1960s, students lobbied the University to hire a black administrator to help black students find more financial aid, expand black curricula and classes, and admit more black students. In recent times, OHIO students organized and participated in Black Lives Matter marches. 

“I’m so proud to be part of a university that has a long history of black excellence as well as student activism. OHIO students have never been content with the status quo. Throughout our history they have asked the hard questions, resisted the easy answers, and demanded better for our community,” Dr. Secuban said. 
 

A Culinary Services employee hands out take out brunch for Silent March participants at Baker Center.
A Culinary Services employee hands out take out brunch for Silent March participants at Baker Center.

In her keynote address, alumna Duncan discussed her national reporting on critical issues and events, such as the protests of the murder of George Floyd and the aftermath of the death of Breonna Taylor, as well as the 2020 presidential election. She reflected on the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and highlighted his six principles of constructive tension. She interviewed Professor Bernard Lafayette Jr., one of the last people to speak to Dr. King before he was killed, about how Dr. King’s messages resonate today. 

“What are we willing to sacrifice to achieve the dream? The dream that one day we will all be treated equally. It starts for speaking up for what’s right. It starts with recognizing a history that, in all of its ugliness, there has been a lot of progress and perseverance,” Duncan said.
 

The 2021 MLK Jr. brunch program was live-streamed and viewable on a large screen in the Peden Stadium parking lot.
The 2021 MLK Jr. brunch program was live-streamed and viewable on a large screen in the Peden Stadium parking lot.

Ohio University student members of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., sponsors of the event, also addressed attendees and introduced fellow OHIO students who recorded dance and song performances. 

Chapter President Braxton thanked students, faculty, staff, and community members for their participation in Monday’s events. 

“It speaks volumes to the brothers of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Phi Chapter, that you all could be in attendance this morning,” Braxton said. “At this point, no one should be blind to or unaware of the current state of this nation. The fight must be won with an army of voices, a battalion of demands, and an undying effort to enact change in a tangible way. Coming together for events like these are steps in the right direction. We ask that you all continue to move in the right direction with us.” 
 

Vanessa Morgan-Nai, co-chair of this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, and Stephen Nai attend the drive-in brunch.
Vanessa Morgan-Nai, co-chair of this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, and Stephen Nai attend the drive-in brunch.

Visit the 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration website to learn more about this year’s events and activities. 

All photos by Ben Siegel of University Communications and Marketing.