The Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center, along with support from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, will host its 46th annual Pre-Black History Month Tribute and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Monday at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
“This event is an opportunity to share the excellence that comes from the African American community,” said James Moore, interim vice provost of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “Students can have access to some of our most influential people in our society, whether that’s in education, whether that’s in government, in politics, or what have you.”
The event headliner is renowned poet, activist and former Ohio State professor Nikki Giovanni. Additionally, the African American Voices Gospel Choir will perform and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity will be leading a candlelight vigil.
“Since Martin Luther King was a member of our fraternity and we’re honoring him, they gave us the chance to honor our fraternity brother and to light those candles and speak about his life,” said LeRoy Ricksy, a fourth-year in criminology and member of the fraternity. “I think it is important to come to the event because it allows students to hear … and see how his life is applicable in today’s world.”
The celebration has a long history dating back to 1972. Because of last year’s record-breaking attendance of more than 2,400, this year will be the first in which attendees will have to reserve a ticket prior to the celebration.
Larry Williamson Jr., director of the Hale Center, reflected on the event’s history, past guests and speakers, including the likes of Angela Davis, Cornell West and Michael Eric Dyson.
Ricksy was an attendee at last year’s celebration, and said Davis’ words were very influential in inspiring students to become involved in activist work. “[You] think about, ‘How can I impact the world today in the way they’ve impacted it?’” he said.
“The standards are that we have to maintain those levels and go higher than what we’ve done before,” Williamson said.
With Giovanni heading the long list of speakers, her presence will secure the event’s reputation for bringing in prominent guests.
She was born on June 7, 1943, in Knoxville, Tennessee, and her works would be influenced by the early years of the civil rights movement.
Giovanni helped establish the Black Arts Movement in the late 1960s. Along with her ongoing work, she has earned many accolades and awards such as seven NAACP Image Awards, multiple Woman of the Year awards, and is a member of the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame.
The event will begin at 6:50 p.m. in the Mershon Auditorium.