Peace breakfast, keynote celebrate Martin Luther King

crowd singing

Attendees of the Peace Breakfast sing the Black National Anthem. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Oregon State University’s annual Martin Luther King Peace Breakfast took place in a new location this year to accommodate the event’s growing popularity, and the CH2M HILL Alumni Center ballroom was packed with guests gathered to celebrate King’s legacy.

The event, which took place on Monday, Jan. 16, featured a number of speakers and the presentation of awards honoring OSU community members who have been key to social justice work on campus.

Angela Batista, interim Chief Diversity Officer at OSU, shared her story of growing up the daughter of immigrant parents in Brooklyn. She said Dr. King’s story was especially meaningful to her as a young woman.

“I first learned about Martin Luther King in high school, and still remember purchasing a framed picture of him in one of our neighborhood stores,” she said. “I kept that picture in my room for many years and had to explain to family members more than once why I had a picture of what they thought was a strange Black man in my room.”

men on stage

Jason Dorsette (left) accepts an award from Scott Vignos on behalf of the late Oscar Montemayor. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Batista said in uncertain times, King’s message is very important.

“In the face of a reality that includes systemic oppression, racism, police brutality, violence in American cities, injustices within the criminal justice system, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiments, and the highest number of Black and Brown incarcerated youth in American history, there is work to be done,” Batista told the audience. “And faced with these daunting obstacles, Dr. King also reminds us that we cannot walk alone. As we walk, we must make the promise that we shall always march ahead in solidarity. We cannot turn back, we cannot look back. We must believe that we can move forward together.”

President Ed Ray told the audience that he was committed to building a just community that embraces inclusive excellence and social justice, but that there was a lot of work ahead.

“We must provide a supportive and safe environment within which each of us at OSU can realize our full potential for learning and success,” he said. “Community building requires that we look out for each other and everyone’s physical, social and emotional well-being even as we each pursue our own personal and professional opportunities at Oregon State. It is incumbent on each of us to step up if we see somebody who needs help or faces imminent danger or a threat. We must not just be bystanders.”

Brandi Douglas from University Housing and Dining Services led the audience in the singing of the Black National Anthem, and students Isamar Chavez and Hope Trautman performed spoken word pieces based on their personal experiences of marginalization.

Four OSU community members were also honored during the event.  The Frances Dancy Hooks Award was created in 1994, when she and Benjamin Hooks visited Oregon State as keynote speakers for the King celebration. The award recognizes students, staff or faculty who exemplify Frances Dancy Hooks’ work: building bridges across cultures, showing courage in promoting diversity, and someone who proudly “Walks the Talk.” This year’s winners were Ana Gomez-Diazgranados, with OSU Extension, and Mehra Shirazi, with the School of Women, Gender and Sexuality.

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Comedian and activist Franchesca Ramsey answers questions during the keynote address. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

The Phyllis S. Lee Award was created to honor Lee, the retired founding Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. The award recognizes a member of the OSU community who exemplifies Lee’s commitment and dedication to social justice and the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. This year’s winners were Larry Roper with the School of Language, Culture and Society and Oscar Montemayor (awarded posthumously).

Following the breakfast, Internet personality, comedian and activist Franchesca Ramsey gave a keynote address at The LaSells Stewart Center, which was followed by a march to the center of campus.

For a complete list of this week’s MLK events:


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