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Marking the Occasion

ONU holds semester-long celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Learn more about the Martin Luther King Jr. statue project: Meet the ArtistLiving Legacy | In Their Own Words

The year 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Ohio Northern University – a literally monumental milestone that will be cemented with the dedication of an on-campus statue of King on April 17. Leading up to this occasion, the University held a series of celebratory events – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Politics, the Movement and the Dream – throughout the spring 2018 semester. As its name suggests, the series highlighted King’s impact on ONU’s past, present and future.

Held in the Freed Center for the Performing Arts, the first event on Jan. 18 took alumni on a journey back in time to Jan. 11, 1968, via a public panel discussion. The panelists reflected on their memories of King’s speech and campus visit, revealing both their thoughts at the time and their thoughts now. Some looked back on the memories with a changed perspective and some didn’t, but the wistful atmosphere gave all involved a chance to reflect on the significance of this unique moment in ONU history.

The second event, a panel discussion held Feb. 13 in English Chapel, was titled “Dr. King’s Vision in the Present Social Justice Movement.” It examined the relevance of King’s message today, how the state of race relations has changed, and how it hasn’t. Featuring panelists from the cities of Lima, Findlay and Toledo, the discussion described the motivations of and challenges faced by those in the local political activism sphere. They were resounding in their united message: Never grow complacent, stay informed and be active in shaping your community’s future.

On March 20 in English Chapel, the third and final event in the series, “Would Dr. King Approve of Your Actions?: Civil Disobedience, Black Lives Matter and Law Enforcement Relationships,” provided a chance to constructively and impartially analyze the law enforcement accountability and black lives matter issue. The event was conducted in the format of a Socratic seminar, a unique teaching tool that facilitates discussion rather than debate, telling both sides of an issue. The seven-person panel, consisting of both students and faculty, answered and asked questions about what it takes to bring about change, both through the lens of King’s views on civil disobedience and present day race relations viewpoints.

In addition to the event series, ONU also shed light on the history of the civil rights movement with the “March to Freedom” exhibit, displayed in the Elzay Art Gallery from March 12-April 6. The photographic gallery chronicled the three marches from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., in March 1965 to protest discriminatory voting rights practices in the South. The exhibit featured the raw and often jarring photography of James “Spider” Martin, an influential media figure in the course of the civil rights movement. Photos plainly show the violence and opposition faced by the protesters and the determinedness of civil rights leaders, including King, John Lewis and Hosea Williams.

On April 17, the statue dedication ceremony took place at English Chapel, immediately followed by the unveiling of the statue, which stands between Taft Memorial and the Claude W. Pettit College of Law. The ceremony featured keynote speaker Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr., a direct protégé and friend of King who's devoted his life to carrying out King's instructions to "institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence." For the last five decades, he has traveled throughout the United States and 35 other countries educating people in living lives of nonviolence.