Ohio Wesleyan University held a panel discussion Monday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and discuss his impact on the community.
OWU traditionally holds a breakfast to celebrate King’s legacy, but the event was moved to an online panel format this year due to the ongoing pandemic. This was the 28th annual celebration and included a benediction, a discussion, and a musical performance.
The panel was moderated by OWU’s Interim Chief Diversity Officer Dawn Chisebe, and it featured Francine Butler, a teacher and intervention specialist at Hayes High School; Karriejoi Coit, executive director of Delaware’s Second Ward Community Initiative; Ruchelle Pride, assessment center supervisor/project manager for the Delaware County Juvenile Court and executive board president of the Second Ward Community Initiative; Jason Timpson, director of Ohio Wesleyan’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs; and Tamika Vinson-Reid, co-chair of the Delaware African American Heritage Council.
Chisebe asked the panelists to discuss the lessons they’ve learned from King. Pride said she learned that the fight for equality has to be persistent.
“Some of the most powerful lessons from King is his level of selflessness and his consistency to be persistent … King never stopped,” Pride said. “As you listen to those speeches and you read those memoirs, nothing about what he did was of a selfish connotation. It was all about the greater good of his people and educating us on how we fight and what to do … We have to finish what we start.”
Likewise, Vinson-Reid said the fight for justice is always ongoing.
“Justice is not a destination, it’s an ongoing commitment,” she said. “It takes all of us to reach this place of beloved community and that beloved community looks like equality for all. So, it’s having the same opportunities, having the same ability to achieve success. It’s making sure there is equitable practices so that we all feel like we belong and we’re beloved.”
Chisebe asked the panelists to discuss how to get involved locally in combating racism and inequality. Pride said it’s a battle that can only be won as a group.
“What (activism) looks like is what we create it to be,” Pride said. “It’s first identifying who are those key players and how do we put the message out to make it something that is open, something that is inviting (for) people from all walks of life. This is not independent race or situation that we take on, we understand the cause and the root, but in order to encompass what we want to achieve as a community, we understand that Delaware is a red county and dominantly white. We’ve got to understand that along with us it’s going to take those power systems in other areas that may not look like us to be able to be a part of what we are trying to accomplish here.”
Pride added that activism is “going to take everybody.”
“We need to focus on the collective to move forward,” she said.
Timpson said that activism comes in all sizes and it’s not just about big demonstrations. It’s also about “micro-activism.” She said a good example would be calling out a racist comment in a meeting.
Pride said it’s also important to understand the biases that you personally hold.
“(It’s about) checking implicit bias to know how you are explicitly biased,” Pride said. “(Be) able to be clear about ‘I have some biases I need to address.’ If you can’t have that candid conversation and you sit in a place of denial to understand where your thoughts and patterns and beliefs even started from, we’ve got a ways to go. There has to be clarity and internal transparency in order to understand how we move forward in that allyship as a whole.”
Coit agreed, adding it’s difficult to work with people who aren’t self-aware enough to recognize their own biases.
“If you aren’t honest with yourself that you don’t any isms, we’re not going to get very far in our conversation, so we do work on people trying to get past and work on their isms,” Coit said.
Vinson-Reid recommended guidetoallyship.com as a good resource to learn how to take someone else’s fight and make it your own.
Chisebe thanked the panelists for their insight, and the program concluded with a musical performance from Brianna Robinson, a member of OWU’s class of 2015, and a benediction from Rev. Dr. Ruth McCants Locke, the pastor of Zion AME Church.
The entire program is available to watch on the university’s Facebook page located at facebook.com/OhioWesleyanUniversity.
Glenn Battishill can reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.