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Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration brings diversity

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Photo by: Kaylin King | Staff Photographer
Students participate in Texas State's 31st Annual MLK Day March put on by the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, January 20th 2016.

The 31st Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Celebration will be held by the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion this Wednesday.

Attendees will meet in front of Old Main at 6:15 p.m. in order to recreate one of King’s famous protest marches. The march will move to the LBJ Student Center Ballroom at 7 p.m., where attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a dinner theater-like event, consisting of an activism-themed program.

Jonnie Wilson, SDI assistant director, said the commemoration will highlight diversity by celebrating activists who may not be as well known as others.

The dinner theater program will consist of a series of monologues performed by students portraying activists. The monologues will highlight the accomplishments made in their lifetime and also honor their lives, Wilson said.

Jerrilyn Roberson, recreational administration sophomore and member of the program committee, said attendees could find themselves sitting next to an activist during the dinner.

“There really isn’t a stage,” Roberson said. “They could be sitting right next to you or someone else and they could just start their monologue.”

Students on the program committee are assigned activists to research and have sculpted the activists’ biographies into monologues for the dinner, according to Roberson.

“All of us first start with doing our research,” Roberson said. “Then we go ahead and write the biographies and do our best to honor each activist.”

“It’s about the celebration of various activists,” Wilson said. “Not just Martin Luther King Jr., but activists that represent a diverse array of ideas. Anybody from Harvey Milk to Angela Davis will be included.”

Representatives from the LGBTQIA, disabled and Native American communities will be acknowledged, Wilson said. She hopes those in attendance will leave with a new array of knowledge.

“Expect to walk away with some type of emotion and education,” Wilson said.

Roberson said she has learned a lot from being a part of the committee.

“My favorite part has been gaining knowledge I didn’t know,” Roberson said. “I even learned a lot more about Martin Luther King. You learn the basics, but there are so many other things that we don’t know. I’ve been very enlightened.”

Antoinette Ray, interdisciplinary studies junior and member of the program committee, said writing her monologue wasn’t difficult, as it was a topic she is passionate about.

“It came easy because it’s something I care about,” Ray said. “We have to write it in their perspective, put ourselves in their shoes and look at things from their point of view.”

Ray said she hopes attendees will be able to see the diversity in the activists included in the program.

“Don’t look at it from a racial standpoint,” Ray said. “Look at it from an educational one. There is so much that is going to be expressed through the monologues.”

Wilson said she ensures her students are thoroughly involved in the planning process in order to teach them skills outside the classroom.

“I think students get an education (by participating),” Wilson said. “It’s not just celebrating, but they walk away knowing something different. The people on the committee say it’s a lot of work, but they love the process because it’s something they can use when they leave here.”

Wilson said she hopes to stress the importance of activism for the rest of the semester in order to teach students how to be activists themselves.

“There are different ways (activism) can catch people’s attention, and that’s something that all students need to be equipped with when learning about social injustice,” Wilson said.

Roberson said researching different activists for the program has had a unique influence on her.

“I’ve taken this to be very personal,” Roberson said. “Just the fact that they had the courage to do something and some of them lost their lives, it is just so beautiful and special. And I’m just so thankful there were people before me who were able to do that and give me what I have now.”