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A participant shows off her #OUSouthernIAM_ message.
February 01, 2017 : Ohio University Southern host 25th annual MLK community celebration
For 25 years, Ohio University Southern has honored the life, legacy and message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a community celebration. It’s rare for an event such as this –  that has transformed into tradition over the years – to gain momentum as a catalyst for a community. However, on Thursday, Jan. 19, Bowman auditorium was packed with a diverse audience – various age groups, religions, ethnicities and genders – honoring Dr. King through readings, song, dance and remarks. That night Dr. King’s message was as powerful and relevant as ever.
Southern Campus Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion Robert Pleasant said that this event wasn’t about entertaining participants. “This evening is about celebrating the legacy of those who have gone before us in motivating you to do your part to create a better society for everyone,” Pleasant said.
Pleasant continued, “When we started planning for this benchmark celebration, we truly wanted it to be a diverse and inclusive event that showcased the talents within our community. Individuals from across our region shared their gifts to bring forth the message of Dr. King.”  
Malak Khader is a Marshall University graduate student, mother, Girl Scout troop leader and a board member for the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. She is also Muslim. At 15, Khader started dressing in accordance with her faith and “without saying a word I told everyone who I am,” she said. Verbal and physical harassment started shortly thereafter.
She said that those negative experiences helped her grow, but that a strong and encouraging family life helped her to thrive. “Growing up my father always told me, ‘you’re amazing, you are intelligent, you are special, and you bring something to the table that nobody else does.’ In that same breath, he would tell me, ‘but you are no better than anyone else.’”
Khader said she learned from Dr. King that one needs to get involved and to be patient – change doesn’t happen overnight. Following that same lesson, area students in grades 6-12 participated in the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Content. Students were asked to write their own speech on something that they would like to see changed in their school or your community. They were asked to make use of a variety of creative techniques to help broaden their audience, capture their readers’ attention and inspire their readers to make a difference. Winners were announced and recognized at the event.
Pleasant said that this year’s event also kicked off the year-long program I Am at the Southern Campus, which will feature a variety of diversity and inclusion topics as the focus of lunch and learn sessions, speakers, events and activities. One of these includes the social media campaign #OUSouthernIAM_. Participants from anywhere in the world can participate via Facebook @ohiouniversitysouthern, Instagram @ousoutherncampus or Twitter @OUSouthern.