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Marchers walk arm in arm through College Gate towards Baker Center during the MLK Silent March on January 19. 

Athens kicks off week of celebration with MLK silent march

Martin Luther King Jr. Week kicks off with march and brunch meant to reflect on MLK’s life, community activism. 

More than 100 participants met at the Galbreath Chapel Monday morning to march two-by-two through College Green in silence, some students making a statement by holding signs with “Humanity,” “I am Human” and “Justice Where RU?”

The annual march is organized to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but this year also acknowledged current events, such as the turmoil in Ferguson and New York.

“It’s more of a testament that we need to speak up and have more events like this because it’s so apparent this stuff is still going on,” said Tyrin Rome, OU’s Alpha Phi Alpha vice president and a junior studying music production. “I feel the silence and the unity is what makes it so strong.”

This is the 15th year Alpha Phi Alpha has organized the event. Rome led the crowd in a prayer at the march, and said the gathering is about “making a statement, and helping people wake up.”

“This is a silent march for the lives lost for police brutality, not to mention to officers that were shot recently. It’s an honor of MLK himself,” Rome said.

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The march concluded in Baker University Center, where some attendees moved on to take their seats in the ballroom for the Martin Luther King Jr. brunch, which 340 attended. The sold-out event featured speakers such as President Roderick McDavis and various Alpha Phi Alpha members.

“We must rise up and live up the dream of Martin Luther King. Let today be that day. We must begin to live out his dream,” McDavis said during his speech at the MLK Brunch. “We as a community must value one another. I don't care what your title is. We are Ohio University we are members of the Athens community remind us there are things far greater than our individuality.”

Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones attended the silent march and brunch and said she admired students for using their day off for the cause and celebration.

“To see so many students, faculty and staff to come out on MLK day and appreciating the reason we have the holiday is great as well,” she added.  

The brunch is a precursor to a week of events celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. McDavis stressed student attendance at a Campus Conversation regarding race taking place on Tuesday.

Topics will vary from the protests in Ferguson to being black in Athens, Hall-Jones said.

Rome said he participated in various protests on campus, including last semester’s occupation of Baker.

“Counter culture has always been interesting,” Rome said. “(MLK) made a difference.  Even though problems still exist, he made laws pass. Movements have been started by young people. At the same time Martin Luther King was having his movement, college students were organizing their own.”

The event concluded with a keynote speaker, Jim Lucas, professional actor and speaker. Lucas performed interpretive readings of Martin Luther King Jr. and a powerful reenactment of King’s “I have a Dream” speech that received a standing ovation from the audience.

McDavis asserted the need for cohesiveness in the Athens community and the campus population in a push for racial equality.

“Freedom lies in this very ballroom,” McDavis said. “We will not rest until everyone comes to this campus feels welcome.”

“We as a collective… as members of the Ohio University community must rise up and live out the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King… I don’t care if we agree or disagree, we must respect one another.”

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