In recognition of this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, two leaders will remind the West Virginia University and Morgantown communities of the power of education in promoting equality, and that pursuing justice is everyone’s task.
One is Freeman Hrabowski III, who was jailed for five days as a 12-year-old for participating in the “Children’s Crusade” civil rights march in 1963. He was already in a leadership role as he read the Bible to his fellow child inmates who all spent days surrounded by criminals.
After this early experience, he never stopped leading. By the age of 24 he had a Ph.D. Since then, he has co-founded the Meyerhoff Scholars program that has supported more than 800 students, particularly minorities, on their way to science and engineering careers. And as president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Hrabowski is known for crafting a school that is surging ahead with its numbers of science and math graduates and forgoes a football team for a chess team.
Hrabowski will be speaking at WVU’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration on Friday (Jan. 14) at 7 p.m. in the Mountainlair Ballrooms. A second event, the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast, will be held on Monday (Jan. 17) at 8 a.m. in the Mountainlair Ballrooms. The events are free and open to the public, but an R.S.V.P. is required for the breakfast by Jan. 10.
“I can think of no one who has a more relevant message for us today than Dr. Freeman Hrabowski,” said Marjorie Fuller, director of WVU’s Center for Black Culture and Research. “His visionary leadership exemplifies the life and legacy of Dr. King, and we are honored to welcome him to West Virginia University.”
Hrabowski was named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by “U.S. News & World Report” in 2008 and one of the country’s “10 Best College Presidents” by Time magazine in 2009.
“Dr. Freeman Hrabowski is one of the most amazing and inspirational leaders in the country,” said WVU President James P. Clements. “He’s innovative, caring, entrepreneurial and a true champion for higher education. I consider him a dear friend a mentor and a personal coach to me and I am thrilled that he is coming to our campus.”
David M. Fryson, deputy general counsel at West Virginia University, will speak at the Unity Breakfast.
Fryson was reared in West Virginia and has spent his life as an activist dedicated to Christian and civil rights principles. His accomplishments include serving as the co-counsel on a successful and historic civil rights case in Charleston, as the first African-American city attorney for two municipalities in West Virginia and as a staff attorney for the Honorable Randolph Baxter, chief bankruptcy judge for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland. In his more than 20 years as an attorney, he also worked in private practice and at other posts.
Aside from his work as an attorney, Fryson is an ordained pastor and most recently served as the Chief Ministry Officer for the House of the Lord, a diverse congregation of more than 6,000 in Akron, Ohio.
In 2001, he served a one-year term as the national vice-president for the Rev. Leon Sullivan’s Opportunities Industrialization Centers (OIC) of America.
Fryson sees past the icon of King to the man and what his life informs us to do. Like Michael Eric Dyson, who will be a speaker at this semester’s Festival of Ideas, Fryson believes the popularity of the “I have a Dream” speech and its continued repetition can sometimes limit our understanding of the full measure of King’s analysis.
“He had so much more depth than merely the dream platitude,” Fryson said. “We must not confine Dr. King’s dream to the point that we lose sight of his realistic solutions to issues such as poverty that we can implement on a continuing basis.”
When Fryson looks at the civil rights legacy, he also sees the people who came before King and have followed since. With King as an icon, the future shape of the movement hangs only on his shoulders. But Fryson said the masses made civil rights a reality and that same energy can assist us in solving current issues.
Fryson said that West Virginia has a strong connection with civil rights and inclusion that needs to be remembered and enhanced by the state that was home to Booker T. Washington, the Rev. Leon Sullivan and Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Black History Month, as well as current figures such as T.D. Jakes and Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr.
The breakfast will include recognition of the recipients of the WVU Center for Black Culture & Research’s Martin Luther King Jr. student scholarship and the Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award. The awards are presented to individuals who have made important contributions to civil rights and humanity.
“We are always very pleased to announce the new scholarship recipient and the recipient of our MLK achievement award,” Fuller said. “This year’s achievement honoree is truly deserving of the award.
“We look forward to seeing members of the WVU campus community as well as all of those who attend annually from the Morgantown community.”
CONTACT: Marjorie Fuller, WVU Center for Black Culture and Research
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