OUS Legacy Awards on Tuesday

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 29, 2023

Honors those who espouse the ideals of MLK

For the past three decades, Ohio University Southern has celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. throughout the month of January.

Part of this celebration is honoring individuals and groups in the Tri-State for their exemplary social responsibility in adhering to and exemplifying the ideals espoused by King.

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“Whether it is the fight for racial justice, equal education, voting rights or the war on poverty, King is connected to all of our lives in one way or another,” said Robert Pleasant, OUS’s director of student services.

“These awards seek to honor those

in our local community who promote King’s legacy and who capture his vision and spirit in ways big and small. I believe that we may not recognize it, but the work that so many of us do in uplifting our community is the work that Dr. King and so many others would be proud of,” said Pleasant. “We say congratulations to all of this year’s Legacy Award winners.”

The recipients of the Legacy Awards, in addition to the winners of the Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Contest, will be honored on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration Reception.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place in the Riffe Rotunda.

One of this year’s honorees is Alan Brown, the recipient of the Alumni Humanitarian Award for those who have made a significant influence on the well-being of others. Brown, an OUS alumnus and local mental health activist, said that he learned from King to “not just say the words,” but to live them.

“I can preach the whole gospel of trying to take care of yourself and taking care of your mental health and everything I believe in. But am I actively making a difference? It’s not enough just to say these things,” said Brown.

Another thing Brown has learned from Dr. King is that every individual can be a changemaker.

“You don’t have to be a world leader, you don’t have to be a celebrity… you don’t have to be anything other than yourself,” he said.

Ronda Williams, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Ironton Middle School, is the recipient of the 2023 Beloved Community Service Award, which recognizes those who make the community a more desirable place to live.

“Dr. King taught us love,” Williams said. “He modeled that by refusing to hate and he poured himself into others with his life mission and message.”

She said she was moved by King because “at a young age, he uses education, his talent, his energy for others and for a cause greater than himself.”

Williams believes his message still resonates today.

“And it will in the future, because we are always concerned about equality and human rights in this nation.”

The Drum Major award honors those who work to improve access to opportunity and success for all people, and those who demonstrate a commitment to equity and inclusion efforts.

Ashland For Change, a community-led organization geared toward educating others on societal inequality and discrimination toward minority groups, is this year’s recipient.

Audra Thomas, vice president of Ashland For Change, reflected on learning about King through a fourth-grade essay test.

“I was really just inspired about his work not just to save his community of people, but the whole world. He wanted to bring equality to us all, and I think that’s a mission we can all relate to,” said Thomas. “He really inspired me to enact change in my hometown and to follow his example.”

Thomas said King taught her and others not to give up.

“He taught us to be resilient. To start good trouble, make good trouble,” she said. “People from all types of backgrounds need to come together and unite to fight for equality, to diminish racism, to enact change that really brings us all together and gives us a level playing field.”

While she said there is still work to be done, Thomas can see improvements.

“The battle is still ongoing, but I can see the strides being made,” she said. “We aren’t giving up anytime soon.”