MLK celebrations mark 21 years at Oswego

The memory of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lives on at Oswego
State, nearly 42 years after his death.

A celebration of King’s dream will kick off at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Campus
Center Auditorium. Events will include a proclamation by Oswego Mayor Randy
Bateman, an oratory contest sponsored by Alpha Phi Alpha, remarks from President
Deborah Stanley and a replaying of King’s "I Have a Dream" speech.

Now in its 21 year, the MLK celebration at Oswego State began in 1989 and was
the brainchild of former hall director Tony Henderson and former director of housing
Duane Arnie Oudenhoven.

At the time, Oudenhoven and Henderson were concerned about Oswego State’s
lack of celebratory events in King’s name, especially when there were prominent King
celebrations in nearby cities like Rochester and Syracuse.

"Dr. King was a larger than life, an individual willing to challenge decades of
wrong-headed authority and discriminatory laws and also willing to face prison or even
death for his beliefs," Oswego State President Deborah Stanley said.

Stanley noted that the event has grown from a small event into a "rich Oswego
tradition". Last year, to mark the event’s 20th anniversary, a special weeklong celebration
was held.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first observed nationally in 1986 after being
signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. The day is celebrated on the third Monday
of January, near his birthday on January 15.

"[King] means freedom, justice and reconciliation; more than a religious leader,
he was the transformative leader," said Oswego State professor, John K. Smith.
Smith said that MLK day has transformed from the celebration of just King, to a
communal celebration.

For Oswego State student Andre Fields, it just gives everyone more time to
celebrate.

Fields is a previous recipient of a community service award, given at the MLK
celebration. Fields noted his admiration to King, as both are members of the Alpha Phi
Alpha Fraternity, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established by and for
African Americans. King pledged to the fraternity at Boston University as a graduate
student.

In the years he’s been involved, Henderson noted that the understanding of the
event has transformed from a celebration focused on minorities into a moment of unity
for people of all backgrounds. Henderson hopes that the celebration will continue to grow
and gain support from the Oswego community.

Although Henderson will be retired following this semester, he assures everyone
that the event here at Oswego State will go on. Associate provost of multicultural
opportunities and programs Cathy Santos will carry on the tradition into the near
future.