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Marshall University honors Martin Luther King

Jan. 26, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University is gearing up to celebrate the accomplishments of black leaders, scholars, politicians and scientists with a variety of events.

While Black History month officially starts on Feb. 1, the university started with a variety of events held to commemorate Martin Luther King Day including the Living the Legacy Awards Luncheon and the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights March which was sponsored by The Huntington-Cabell Branch of the NAACP under the directorship of Silvia Ridgeway.

"On the university side we worked very hard to encourage participation on the Martin Luther King Day march," said Maurice Cooley, vice president for Intercultural Affairs and oversees the Center for African American Studies. "We had a reasonable number of students turn out for the event which included a number of international students."

Cooley said he is planning on a larger student turnout next year.

"I spoke with a group of group of international students who were part of the INTO program," Cooley said. "We had 109 international students who came to the university last fall and another 100 who came to America to study at Marshall that arrived two weeks ago. In preparing the INTO students for Martin Luther King holiday, I was invited to give a presentation to roughly 50 students. The lecture included information on some of the key historical eras that lead up to King's role in history. That ran from the slavery, to the reconstruction, to the birth of the civil rights movement. We talked about different leaders who had different ideas at that time, then the growth and contribution of Dr. King. We then had a discussion about where we are today. It was a very exciting presentation for me because I spoke with students who were from Columbia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, South Korea etc. When I asked if they had heard about Martin Luther King Jr. and everyone raised their hand. I then asked what they had learned about Dr. King in their homelands and they all knew about the 'I Have A Dream' speech, but couldn't really elaborate beyond that. So it turned out to be a very exciting discussion. Subsequently many of the students joined with some students from the Society of Black Scholars and we all walked to the march."

Another event leading into Black History Month is The Brainstorm, an informal student conversation on ethnicity, race, culture and gender. The event is facilitated by Marshall University Women's Studies and Intercultural Affairs. The discussion takes place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 29 and is free for all students.

"Essentially the purpose of the Brainstorm is to facilitate conversation between students from all backgrounds, ethnicities and races," Cooley said. "We want them to brainstorm topics that students are interested in discussing with one another. We want them to be more informed about differences that they're curious about. We will develop a series of conversations about specific topics that occur throughout the rest of the semester. Dr. Laura Diener is working with me on this. We aren't going to generate or suggest topics. We want students to bring up the issues or concerns they feel are worthy of dialog."

At 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9 the John Marshall Dining Room will host it's annual Soul Food Feast. One of the John Marshall Dining Room's most popular annual events, the Feast will serve a variety of traditional comfort foods including barbecued ribs, chitterlings, collared greens, black eyed peas and macaroni and cheese. A style of cuisine created by African Americans in the American South, Soul Food has a real resonance for many families. Tickets for the event are $15 for adults and $7 for students/youth. To reserve a ticket call 304-696-6705.

"There are traditional foods that have been handed down among many African American families dating back to the slavery period," Cooley said. "It's always a favorite festivity among many people in town. It gives many members of the community a chance to dine with their friends while meeting new people.

"I would say that last year around 350 people came to the Soul Food Feast," he added. "That greatly exceeded the number we had attend in the past. We're planning for a similar number this year. We worked hard last year to get the word out and people shared that with friends, family and communities."

Other future events for Black History Month include the Diversity Breakfast on Feb. 14 in the Don Morris Room of the Memorial Student Center and a documentary film series at the Drinko Library.

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