francine childs

Professor emerita Francine Childs speaks during the commemoration on Aug. 28

Photographer: Stephen Reiss

march on washington

Students in the balcony lock arms while singing in unison during the commemoration

Photographer: Stephen Reiss

march on washington peggy gish

Local civil rights activist Peggy Gish speaks about the March on Washington during the commemoration

Photographer: Stephen Reiss

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University draws inspired crowd for March on Washington commemoration

Ohio University faculty, staff and students, as well as Athens area residents, revisited the hope-filled declarations of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech on Aug. 28.

A large crowd gathered in the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Auditorium to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, often called "the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation."

Many first-year Bobcats from the more than 200 learning communities attended the event, which was designed to memorialize the gains already made in race relations and to draw attention to their continued impact 50 years later.  

The commemoration featured speakers and performers from a wide range of backgrounds, as well as images, recordings and video intended to reflect the feelings and emotions of the day.

Francine Childs, professor emerita of African American Studies, told the audience that she met King in 1956 while she was a college student. She continually asked the audience, "What is your life's blueprint?" in order to revisit a memorable lesson she learned when King asked her "What will be your plight in life?"

"What will you build?" Childs asked the audience. "Will it make a difference that you were born? What will your legacy be?"

School of Music professor and event co-organizer Peter Jarjisian embraced Childs' challenge to make one's life meaningful, and added one of his own.

"[I hope the audience takes away] a willingness to listen to other people attentively, to really see what needs to be done, what other people need. Maybe [they will take away] a view outside one's own self," Jarjisian said.

Larry Griffin, the founder and director of Capriccio Vocal Ensemble in Columbus, Ohio, narrated a rhythmic audience reading of the "I Have a Dream" speech. Additional OHIO participants were student poet Derrick Holifield, Information Technology Specialist Sharell Arocho, Assistant Professor of African American Studies Akil Houston and Associate Professor of Sports Administration and Facility Management Andrew Kreutzer.

Jacob Chaffin, a senior education major, cited Derrick Holifield's performance as his favorite part of the evening.

"He was the only student speaking, and his words were about what Dr. King's words were about," Chaffin said.

Holified's poem focused on student engagement regarding social issues. He said he wrote the poem two years ago after hearing Rev. Jesse Jackson speak to students on campus.

During his remarks, Houston acknowledged that King's legacy has not yet reached its full potential.

"After the march was over, there was still work to be done," Houston said in his videotaped message. "So after this celebration, there is still work to be done."