MLK event celebrates legacy of peace

PARKERSBURG – Peace is a key component of society, but it must be the right kind of peace which pushes that society toward justice and not a static acceptance of the absence of tension, a difference outlined by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement.

King’s legacy was the focus of “Celebrating a Legacy of Peace: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” Monday at West Virginia University at Parkersburg, organized by the college and DuPont Washington Works for the past eight years.

Nearly 200 people turned out for Monday’s event in the College Activities Center at WVUP, which originally had been scheduled in January to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

David M. Fryson, chief diversity officer at WVU, served as keynote speaker for Monday’s program and said the change in date helped highlight both King’s legacy, which is celebrated in January, and Black History Month and its annual commemoration in February.

Fryson’s program was titled “A Legacy of Peace” in which he talked about the idea of “the right kind of peace,” based on statements by King who believed there were two types of peace, one negative and one positive. The negative peace was described as an absence of tension, while the positive peace was described as the presence of justice.

Fryson believes America is at one of its seminal points where it can move forward, but there seems to have been a loss of understanding about how people can disagree peacefully.

“Rather than always trying to agree, I think disagreements are very important but how you go about the disagreements is at the foundation of who we are as a country,” he said.

Fryson urged people to embrace diversity of all kinds. He said programs like Monday’s event at WVU-P are key for the country to bring itself together.

He was pleased with Monday’s turnout for the program, especially since it had already been rescheduled from an earlier date.

“For people to come shows that there is a commitment for us to just have the kind of conversations that I think are necessary for us to move forward,” he said.

“It’s how we move together, while understanding we are different,” Fryson said.

In addition to performances by choirs from Pleasants County Middle School and VanDevender Middle School, Monday’s program included the presentation of the 2014 Mid-Ohio Valley Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award, created by DuPont Washington Works and WVU-P.

Bea Corra, co-founder and longtime director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Multi-Cultural Festival, received the Legacy Award in recognition of her work over nearly two decades on the annual festival.

In accepting the award, Corra said the event was the creation of co-founder Gene Donaway and she felt honored to have helped continue the event which he founded.