Civil Rights activist to discuss the future of equality at annual MLK celebration

Civil Rights leader Julian Bond is a chairman emeritus for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Photo courtesy of Kent State University.

Civil Rights leader Julian Bond is a chairman emeritus for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Photo courtesy of Kent State University.

Melissa Puppo

Martin Luther King Jr. taught only one class in his lifetime. Only eight students attended that class, held at Morehouse College in 1962. Julian Bond, one of those students, will present  “From Civil Rights to Civil War: The history of the racial struggle in the U.S.” during his keynote speech for the 13th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Thursday, Jan. 22 at 4 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom.

“We are honored to have Julian Bond as our keynote speaker this year,” said Alfreda Brown, Kent State’s vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in a university press release. “His speech will be relevant in light of many current regional and national headlines that have gained attention across the United States over the past several weeks.”

Bond said in a phone interview that students who attend his speech will hear about the history of the movement for civil rights and learn about “victories that were won, the losses that were made, how the movement progressed, where we are now and what has to be done. 

Before Bond’s speech, a student forum called “Race in America,” part of the new University Dialogue Series, will take place from 1:30 to 3:15 p.m. at Oscar Ritchie Hall’s African Community Theatre. Following the series, there will be a silent memorial march to the ballroom.

After his speech, Brown will present Bond with an art project created by children from Kent State’s Child Development Center.

Student activities coordinator Sydney Jordan from the Center for Student Involvement coordinated with the Child Development Center to create a weaving for Bond. The weaving is made from different materials intertwined amongst one another to create a cloth or fabric.

Erin West, graduate appointee in the department of Administrative Affairs and Graduate Education, said Jordan brought pieces of yarn, string, fabric and textiles to the center to represent different skin tones, hair textures and colors from different nationalities.

Toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners from the center helped create the weaving that “represents the children’s multicultural diversity and their different skin colors that combine to make a beautiful piece of art,” according to a press release.

Because the children at the center are fairly young, both outdoor educator Terri Cardy and West said they have been teaching the students at the Child Development Center about what ideals Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to represent through his work. Those ideals include respect, service, caring, kindness and accepting people for who they are.

“We believe if you start at a young age, the children will be more inclined to do these things as they get older and more aware of the needs of older people as well as the environment,” Cardy said.

Bond said he thinks it’s important that every person of every age learn something about the United States and the struggles for justice and civil rights.

“Everybody needs to learn as early as they can about these things and try to absorb them and say to themselves, ‘I should be interested in that. I should so something about that myself,’ and you can’t be too young for this,” Bond said.

Kent State’s Diversity Trailblazer Award also will be presented in the ballroom. Previous recipients of this award include Ronald Fowler, senior pastor of Akron’s Arlington Church of God; David Mohan, dean of Kent State’s Geauga campus; and Gene Shelton, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

A ticket is required to attend Bond’s speech on Thursday. His speech and other events are free and open to the public. Registration for the speech is closed.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Reaction from on Vimeo.

Contact Melissa Puppo at [email protected].