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Joan C. Browning
February 12, 2016 : Freedom Rider Shares Her Experiences As Part Of 24th Annual MLK Community Celebration at OUS
Joan C. Browning picked a hundred pounds of cotton many days throughout her youth. In her late teens and early 20s, she volunteered with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She was one of nine Albany Freedom Riders on the last freedom ride. Since that pivotal point in her life, Browning has become a renowned author, lecturer and advocate for the under-represented.
Joan Browning
 
On January 28, Browning visited Ohio University Southern and shared her experiences and the wisdom she learned from many of the Equal Rights Era activists with participants at the 24th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration.
 
During her speech, Browning displayed her hand-written notes from October 12, 1961 where she listened to King speak at a town hall meeting in Atlanta. She also showed the audience an autograph that King provided for her. “I hate to think of what Dr. King thought of this girl asking for his autograph,” Browning said. “But as an 18-year old, he influenced my life immensely. It was an important moment.”
 
Browning’s appearance was part of the celebration themed, “Many Voices: Building the Beloved Community.” Students, faculty, staff and members of the community contributed artistically to the program with song, interpretive dance and a reading.
 
Community member Bonnie Holmes said that she has been coming to the celebration for at least 20 of the last 24 years. “There was just something about Dr. King. He had such a great magnetism that made you stop to turn your head and listen each time he would speak,” Holmes said. “It’s important to remember the man and the message.”
 
Rachel McWharter, a middle childhood education major, assisted with the event. “Even though I was working,” McWharter said, “I found tonight to be really emotional.” She described the audience standing together holding hands while singing. “Interacting with one another as part of the program was really great,” McWharter added.
 
Junior high and high school winners, selected from 40 entrants for this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest were recognized.
 
Middle School Division
 
First Place:
Jana Horner
“The Struggle to End Discrimination”
Portsmouth Junior High School
 
Second Place:
Levi Curtis
“Racism: A Two-Edged Sword”
Portsmouth Junior High School
 
Third Place:
Scarlett Caudill
“How Does Bullying Affect Others?”
Portsmouth Junior High School
 
High School Division
 
First Place:
Taylor Mazzone
“Champion for the Poor”
South Point High School
 
Second Place:
Gavin Grizzle
“American Dream or American Coma: A Continual Struggle for Racial and Economic Justice”
Ironton High School
 
Third Place:
Jaxson Pleasant
“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”
Ironton High School