The 32nd annual observance of activities on Ferris State University’s main campus, honoring the life and legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., began Monday, Jan. 15 in Big Rapids.
For the 24th consecutive year, an in-service program for faculty and staff was hosted. The program took place in the University Center ballroom. Nearly 80 participants heard more than a dozen messages of inclusion, encouragement and social consciousness offered by peers, including Biology Professor Kemi Fadayomi, Associate Professor of History Tracy Busch and Lincoln Gibbs, associate dean of the College of Health Professions.
“I felt it was important to offer a reading as I am compassionate about lifting up those with a message to assure they have a voice and their message is heard,” Gibbs said. “As a university community, it is important to actively demonstrate we care about equality, justice and freedom for all. I am proud to be part of that cause.”
Assistant Professor of Social Work Rita Walters was honored with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Award at the close of the in-service. Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion David Pilgrim spoke to those gathered of Walters’ work to establish a study abroad program, in Haiti, which had its inaugural 10-day tour, in 2017. Walters travels to Ghana, later this month, with her departmental peer, Jessica Gladden, in hopes of establishing a similar program in that African nation.
Hundreds assembled in the Rankin Atrium of the University Center, later that afternoon, for the annual Freedom March. The procession was led by students carrying a banner while others held signs signifying the cause that had them marching with fellow students as well as faculty, staff and community members.
Ferris President David Eisler and Pilgrim spoke following the Freedom March.
“This is a university, and the United States is a country, for all people,” Eisler said. “I encourage you to get to know more about Martin Luther King Jr.”
Pilgrim spoke of his experience as an adolescent in an Alabama school, his first exposure to King.
“We sat around a small black-and-white television to watch his funeral,” Pilgrim said. “We knew something important had happened. Our teacher told us, ‘This was a man of courage,’ and she also said, ‘It’s your turn.’ I now understand we were being encouraged to do something for someone. The question for all of us is, are we willing to help other people?”
Monday’s observances concluded with the annual Student Tribute, with a number of individuals and groups making their presentations in University Center, Room 202.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, “MLK In His Own Words,” a Room of Reflection, and the “Tunnel of Oppression,” an interactive display, will be available in rooms 112 and 116 of the University Center, respectively. Each of these displays will be available to the campus and community from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Jan. 16 and 17.
Tuesday evening, Jan. 16, Ferris alumnus and former Board of Trustee Chair Ron Snead will be guest speaker for the featured discussion, “I Was Here in ’68,” beginning at 6 p.m. in University Center, Room 203, the Founders' Room.
Activist, poet and speaker Monti Washington concludes the MLK Celebration schedule Wednesday, Jan. 17, when he presents “Which Lives Matter?” beginning at 7 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom.
PHOTO CAPTION: Rita Walters, an assistant professor of Social Work received the Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Award at a faculty/staff in-service Monday, Jan. 15 at Ferris State University. Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion David Pilgrim noted Walters’ establishment of a Study Abroad experience to Haiti as he presented the award, the in-service is an annual element of the university’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, which is in its 32nd year. (Photo credit: Diversity and Inclusion Office)