2015 MLK Celebration

Al Sharpton receiving Kente cloth from Valerie Lee

Reverand Al Sharpton receives the Kente from Dr. Valerie Lee, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion.

Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?' ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Through peaceful protest, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. spent his life working for equality for African Americans and victims of injustice. Dr. King marched on Washington, coordinated a bus boycott in Montgomery, and worked to register Black voters in the south, playing a crucial role in the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

On Wednesday, January 14, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Frank W. Hale, Jr. Black Cultural Center celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. King with the 43rd Annual MLK Celebration. This year’s celebration featured a dialogue with Rev. Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC’s PoliticsNation and founder of the National Action Network, and award-winning writer Jamal Watson.

The celebration began with a candlelight vigil by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., whose members lit candles in honor of Dr. King and the virtues of peace, freedom, equality, love, and faith. The audience was then treated to the African American Voice Gospel Choir, who sang “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” Tributes to Dr. King and his legacy were given by Dr. Valerie Lee, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, and Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston before Searius Addishin, award-winning spoken word artist, performed a piece and also created a poem incorporating 13 words provided by the audience. Quartez Harris, another award-winning poet, read one of his poems that was inspired by a conversation with a student from Mifflin High School.

The presentation of the 2015 MLK Memorial Scholarships brought forth a class of scholars who earned honors for their academic aptitude and accomplishments; engaged in rigorous academic research; provided leadership in diverse settings, and unselfishly served the university and broader community with countless hours of community service. Established in 1970 by the Pinedale-Rochdale Student Fund, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Scholarship is a full merit-based scholarship awarded to students who are junior rank or above with preference given to African-American students. Now funded by Ohio State’s Campus Campaign, the scholarship is given to at least four students each year. This year’s awardees are: Christopher Carson, Presney Edwards, and Shannon Jeffries.

After another musical selection from the African American Voices Gospel Choir, Rev. Sharpton and Dr. Jamal Watson took the stage. During the dialogue, Rev. Sharpton spoke about his experiences during the Civil Rights Movement. As a child preacher, he met many of those involved including Jesse Jackson, who asked Rev. Sharpton to serve as the youth director for Operation Breadbasket in New York, a protest that used boycotting to increase purchases of goods and services from Black businessmen. The audience then heard Rev. Sharpton speak about how Dr. King’s principles guided him through life, including meeting and forgiving the man who stabbed him in 1991.

The 2015 MLK Celebration was in collaboration with Radio One, WCKX Power 107.5, Columbus State Community College, and theAfrican American Faculty, Staff, Student and Community Coalition.

Other MLK events on January 19, 2014 included the Annual Day of Service, the MLK Student March, and the MLK Blood Drive. Ohio State’s Pay It Forward partnered with the Hale Center to bring together over 1000 students who provided volunteer hours for the MLK Day of Service, volunteering to work with youths, sorting donated clothing, and serving meals to senior citizens. For the MLK Student March sponsored by Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., Ohio State students met at Hale Hall and marched to the Ohio Union for transportation to the King Arts Complex. The blood drive, sponsored by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., took place in Hale Hall with 25 students participating.

Photo by Ira Graham III