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Alpha Phi Alpha march held in memory of MLK

By Megan Thobe
On January 24, 2013

An assorted group made up of Miami University students and Oxford community members gathered at 10 a.m. in the Uptown Park Monday to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and his life work. The peace marchers sang gospel music and remembered King's messages during a march that led down high street and through campus. Following the march, many of the participants attended a commemorative program featuring speaker Carl Westmorland.

Miami's chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha sponsored and organized the march with assistance from the Office of Diversity Affairs and the Center for American and World Cultures.

According to senior DeJuan Hill, the president of Alpha Phi Alpha, the annual march is important to the values of the fraternity both as its biggest and most important event.

"Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an important time to remember a man who worked for something bigger than himself," Hill said. "Dr. King was an Alpha and he embodies our goals to be leaders."

Hill also said the event is set up as a proactive approach to bringing together advocates for peace and social justice to remember past victories and plan for future success.

The march opened with a welcome from the university and Oxford vice mayor, Ken Bogard.

The opening ceremony included a global justice prayer delivered by representatives of Catholicism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. According to junior Tariq Mohammed, the event's Master of Ceremonies and the historian for Alpha Phi Alpha, the prayer was included to remind people that King's ideas transcend cultures.

"I think that [the global justice prayer] showed the diversity of the people involved," Mohammed said. "It was great to see the different ideologies of each religion unite around King's ideas."

Mohammed, Hill and the rest of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity led the march down High street and through Miami's campus to Hall Auditorium where a commemorative program took place.

The keynote speaker was Carl Westmoreland, the senior advisor for historic preservation at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

Westmoreland spoke on the importance of remembering the past and accepting difficulties that may come on the quest for a better future. He also spoke about his personal experiences at Miami as a student and highlighted the fact that although change has happened in the past, social activists should not get too comfortable with societal rules.

"Sometimes we tolerate the things that make us uncomfortable," Westmoreland said in an interview. "What we should do is take those uncomfortable moments as an opportunity and challenge the things that are causing us pain."

Westmoreland also emphasized the importance of understanding history and heritage before moving forward. According to Westmoreland, even though he chose to do something different than his father and grandfather, their work taught him the importance of being good at what he does.

"I learned a lot from my community and my heritage," Westmoreland said. " I learned what worked and what didn't work and I realized that my job is to fix what's broken."

Westmoreland said he felt the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace March embodied the ideas of the original peace marches led by King; he referred to the participants of the event as the "new army" fighting for social justice.

The expected changes to Miami's schedule will make it impossible for a future Martin Luther King Jr. Day peace march to exist because the spring semester will begin after Martin Luther King Day.

However, according to senior David Moore of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, "this isn't the last you've heard of the peace march, or of the Alphas."

According to Mohammed, the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity is planning to work around Miami's J-Term schedule changes by incorporating the peace march into a Black History Month program that will incorporate the messages of other influential social justice leaders.

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