‘Outstanding’ turnout for MLK celebrations

In its 30th year, MLK Week at BW continues to honor legacy of Dr. King


The 30th annual MLK Week celebration, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., wrapped up on Jan. 25 with the annual Social Change Summit.

This year’s week of events included the introduction of a service fair event called “Transform the World Fair,” which happened on Jan. 19  at the United Methodist Church of Berea.

Service organizations from throughout the Greater Cleveland area were represented by tables at the fair.

Jay T. Hairston, the creator of MLK Week and chair of the MLK Week committee at BW, said organizations represented at the fair included Habitat for Humanity, Kiwanis Club, Boy Scouts of America and the Brain Center for Community Engagement.

In addition to the new event, traditional events like the Candlelight March and Prayer Breakfast were held.

Student Government and the Black Student Alliance hosted the Candlelight March on Jan. 21, said CJ Harkness, chief diversity officer of the Center for Inclusion.

“I think there was an outstanding student turnout and program,” said Harkness. “Students were participating and the program flow was great.”

The Prayer Breakfast, which was held on Jan. 20, featured speaker Clarence Bozeman, Dr. King’s personal driver.

Bozeman drove Dr. King around to different speaking and preaching engagements in the 1950s while attending Alabama State University.

“He got to know him on a personal level, so that was really insightful,” said Hairston.

Another MLK Week event also took place on the Monday holiday, which included a private screening of “Just Mercy” for BW students at Regal Middleburg Town Square.

Over 80 people attended the screening, said Hairston.

The Equal Justice Initiative is an organization that strives to provide legal representation to those who may have been denied a fair trial. “Just Mercy” features the story of Bryan Stevenson, the creator of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Clients of the Equal Justice Initiative, Anthony Ray Hinton and Kuntrell Jackson were speakers at the MLK Week Keynote & Enduring Questions: The Mark Collier Lecture Series on Jan. 21.

Hairston came to BW in October of 1988 as the director of student activities and the Academic and Cultural Events Series (ACES).

Hairston said one of his responsibilities as ACES director was to secure a speaker for Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. Recognition.

“I said ‘well let me call somebody that I know would do a good job and I had a relationship with,’ and that was Yolanda King, Dr. King’s oldest daughter,” said Hairston.

Hairston said that the event inspired him to reach out to other organizations in Berea to discuss collaboration of Martin Luther King Jr. celebration events throughout the community.

The collaboration later became known as ‘MLK Week’.

“I said ‘wouldn’t it be cool if those who were doing things—we all came together—and joined our resources, and talked about how could we as a community—and by that I mean Baldwin Wallace and Berea— and really live out what I felt in my heart the King celebration was all about,’” said Hairston.

Hairston said BW’s history connects well with the events that take place during the MLK Week celebration. Baldwin Wallace was one of the first colleges in the United States to admit students regardless of race or gender.

“One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed working at BW is the historical connection to diversity and inclusion, dating back to John Baldwin, our founder,” said Hairston, who also acts as the associate diversity officer and director of the Center for the Inclusion at BW.

Hairston said that he hopes that BW and Dr. King’s legacy continue to inspire students.

“I would hope that we continue to work on raising a generation of future leaders,” said Hairston.

Three MLK Week events focused on empowering the future generation of leaders included: Creative Expressions, the MLK Day of Learning, and the Social Change Summit.

Students paid tribute to Dr. King’s legacy through their music and artwork at Creative Expressions, which was held on Jan. 22 at the Berea Branch of Cuyahoga County Public Library.

The MLK Day of Learning took place on Jan. 23 on BW’s campus. Volunteers from BW and Berea Mid-park High School facilitated activities for over 150 students from Grindstone Elementary School and St. Mary Catholic School, said Harkness.

“It was just a great time engaging and teaching about valuing each individual person’s humanity and Dr. King’s life and legacy,” said Harkness. “You hope [the events] will be able to shape their perspectives as they move through school and get older and become leaders in our society.”

BW students attended the Social Change Summit that included workshops that seek to educate and empower student leaders, said Hairston.

“Sometimes, you know, we get overwhelmed because it’s like, I’m just one person. What can I do? What difference can I make?” said Hairston. “The Social Change Summit helps connect the dots to say, you can make a change in the following ways: by getting involved in this organization, getting involved in this group and volunteering with our Brain Center for Community Engagement. They have a number of ways to get involved.”