OSU honors Dr. King

Riley Youngman, News Contributor

OSU honors legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with workshops, talks for the next two weeks

Running for two weeks, Oregon State University will honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a wide variety of events, talks and workshops.  Planned by the Office of Equity and Inclusion, this year’s celebration has events planned for nearly every day from Jan. 11 through Jan. 22.

“When I was a student, I always remember that MLK Day was talked about as it should be a day on, not a day off.  It is so easy for all of us to look at a vacation day and feel like we need to take a break and we should unwind and go do something fun and enjoyable, but I think being able to have one day where you are focusing on these topics, and seeing the opportunity to engage, is very valuable for people,” said Gabriel Merrell an associate director in the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

The celebration will begin Monday at noon with the Kick-Off Event in the MU Horizon Room, where Dr. Joseph Orosco, an associate professor and director of OSU’s Peace Studies Program, will give a presentation titled, “Places of Injustice.”

The talk will focus on topics Orosco has discussed previously and will touch on places at OSU that are named after historical figures that have ties to racism and slavery.

“Certain members of the faculty from early on in our founding were members of the Confederate army (…) so we are having a conversation about what it means to have a name that is associated with racism,” said Merrell.

One of the largest events is the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Jan. 16, put on by the Center for Civic Engagement.  The annual event consists of several different volunteer opportunities available to students throughout the day, including work with Habitat for Humanity, Corvallis Parks and Recreation, Linn Benton Food Share, Produce for People and several others.  

According to Annie Corkery, a junior in English and political science who works with the Center for Civic Engagement, last year’s event had 290 students volunteer. This year there are 12 projects, which can accommodate around 300 volunteers.

Corkery said those interested in participating must pre register on the Center for Civic Engagement webpage.  Each project is on a first-come, first-serve basis, so early registration is important.  A wait list will be established for projects that fill up before the deadline.

“This is one of the largest events the Center for Civic Engagement puts on throughout the year.  It is important to hold because it gets lots of students involved,” said Jeremy Chu, a sophomore in biology who also works with the Center for Civic Engagement.

Corkery, as well as others with the Center for Civic Engagement, see a great importance for holding the Day of Service each year.

“MLK Day is celebrated throughout the community and we see it is important to build on that community.  Participating in the Day of Service connects the community and allows us to reflect on problems we face and ways to reach a more peaceful and connected solution,” Corkery said.

The most well known event of the celebration, the Peace Breakfast, falls on Jan. 18.  The breakfast itself consists of several speakers, including a keynote speaker that is selected through the Office of Equity and Inclusion’s MLK celebration committee.  Open to students as well as the general public, the popular event fills the MU Ballroom each year, according to Merrell.  

“The Peace Breakfast is absolutely the biggest event.  All of the OSU community is invited, and comes to some degree, and so is the greater Corvallis community,” said Merrell.  “We average 500 to 600 attendees every year.  It fills the MU Ballroom.”

This year’s keynote speaker for the breakfast is Jeff Chang, the executive director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University.  Chang is well known for several books he has published, as well as his public speaking, according to Gabriel.

Other speakers will include the executive director of Equity and Inclusion, OSU President Ed Ray, and institutional awards that recognize diversity related work by any individual in the community will also be handed out.

The celebration of Dr. King will end the night of Friday, Jan. 22 with the Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Dance in the Snell International Forum.  The dance begins at 9 p.m. and goes until 2 a.m.  

“It is good to talk about and visit our history and individuals in our history who have done really positive things for us, as well as recognize the work all of us on campus are doing around these topics,” said Merrell.

In his second year working directly with the MLK Celebration, Merrell looks forward to the event each year.

“One of the things I love about the celebration is that it isn’t just one office that is putting on a lot of events, it is an opportunity for anyone in the community that is interested in these topics to come together and have conversations and go to  events that are led by a very diverse group of individuals and offices.”

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