Starting on January 20, the Ohio University Division of Diversity and Inclusion will host a multitude of celebratory and educational week-long events surrounding the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
The week will begin with a silent march starting at Helen Mauck Galbreath Memorial Chapel, 43 University Terrace, on Monday. Over the years, the silent march has gradually been followed by an enlightening brunch, with several entertaining events stagnantly being added.
This year, the events will include a black excellence panel, a charity basketball game, a national day of service with donations for the region, as well as several raffles and giveaways. The annual celebration is coordinated by the university's MLK Jr. Celebration Planning Committee.
Each year, the week of events has a specific theme. The theme for this year is “keep moving forward.” For Tamika Williams, the assistant director for diversity and inclusion in the career and leadership development center, the theme signifies the holistic celebration of MLK Jr., which is demonstrated through the weeklong recognition, rather than one day.
“A day off means we’re all gonna sleep,” Williams said. “But, having a full week of events means that you’re actually going to recognize MLK’s acts, which enables us to celebrate what he has done for America on a broader scale.”
Williams is the co-chair for the weeklong event. Williams, who has had a part in formulating two of the week’s newest events — the black excellence panel and the charity basketball game — expressed that her contribution to these new additions aids in a reemergence of excitement for the students that attend.
“When something is annual, people may feel like they’re going because they have to, rather than actually being excited to go,” Williams said. “Having new ideas helps to rejuvenate the week and what MLK has done and why we should be celebrating it in the first place.”
Williams asserted that the addition of the black excellence panel is a unique opportunity for students to feel heard by other individuals who were once in their shoes.
“The panel allows students to interact with alumni that are involved in an array of professional fields and allow them to share their stories about what it’s like to be a black professional in whatever industry they may be in,” Williams said. “Hearing it from somebody that has been where they are and identifies the way that they identify can be a lot more impactful.”
Tyrone Carr, the special assistant to the vice president for university advancement and executive director of the Interlink Alliance, is the other co-chair for the celebration. Carr explained that the week will showcase MLK Jr.’s legacy through spirituality and acceptance, by assisting less fortunate groups in the local area, through efforts such as the month-long school supply drive.
“The week is a celebration of one of the greatest leaders of the social justice movement,” Carr said. “It’s a combination of giving back as well as educational opportunities that are all a part of King’s legacy.”
This legacy, while still prevalent in society, has sometimes been absent from the school system, as many schools do not properly emphasize MLK Jr.’s significance. However, Williams conveyed that this celebratory week reinforces MLK Jr.’s importance to a different age group.
“The events allow students to feel like they can give back even if the curriculums have changed,” Williams said. “Some of your friends wouldn’t even be at this school if MLK didn’t accomplish the things he did, so this brings it back to a college level where we can get your attention in different ways.”
Demetri Wolfe, who graduated in 2019, said the magnitude of MLK Jr.’s actions has reached him personally, contributing to his daily life in ways that he does not actively process.
“He’s probably part of the reason I was able to go to private school as a six year old and have the education and the friends that I’ve had,” Wolfe said. “He was responsible for mainly the things that I don’t even think about and take for granted.”
Wolfe described the extension of the celebration is a sign of progression in society, in both the educational realm and in personal interactions.
“A week is progress,” Wolfe said. “I think that the step eventually needs to be taken forward to where the full story of MLK and all of his other marches and other arrests are fully integrated into not just national holidays, but also school curriculums, so we’re not just remembering that MLK had a dream and that’s why we have a day, but rather, it’s a step towards greater longevity.”
You can find the complete list of week-long events in celebration of MLK Jr. here.