For Detroit native Emmanuel Ogua, Martin Luther King Jr.'s work to bring people together is more than just history. It is the way he tries to live his life.
Ogua, a second-year graduate student studying communication, is using this passion to help the Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion staff plan the university's MLK Jr. Week events.
The week of remembrance kicks off Monday, Jan. 16, with the CommUnity Peace Brunch and a CommUnity Peace March and Vigil. All events, which take place throughout the week, are open to the public.
Ogua, who was last year's winner of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest, took time to reflect on the lasting impact of King's legacy, how his words and work are relevant today, and the ways in which anyone can carry on the lessons of King throughout the year.
Here are his thoughts on:
The importance of bringing the CMU community together
"King's willingness and passion for bringing people together and building community continues to be important and is something we need to remember. It is amazing just how relevant this is today," Ogua said.
Moving the dream forward … every day
"One of the biggest things every person can do is to learn about someone different. It's not just about learning from someone from a different race. You could learn from someone with a different religion, country, or even someone who just has different viewpoints or is from a different type of town," Ogua said. "Taking time to expand your circle, learn from each other, talk about differences and find common ground, helps you be open-minded."
The ways in which he embraces the spirit of MLK
"I always try to take an opportunity to learn and get outside of my comfort zone. I try to remember to operate with an open mind versus a closed mind and with curiosity versus judgment. Going about my day with this mindset gives me the opportunity to expand my mind in so many ways," Ogua said.
Putting his communication skills to work to plan MLK Jr. Week
Ogua was involved in every part of the planning process. With the support of D'Wayne Jenkins, assistant director of multicultural academic student services, he gained experience in everything from event logistics to securing speakers.
"King paved the way for someone like me to be here," Ogua said. "It is a privilege to honor his legacy in this way."
He said the event planning project reinforced lessons he has learned in his communication classes, including the importance of resourcefulness, networking and being willing to venture outside his comfort zone.
"It's been so great to have this experience. I had participated as a student and MAC scholar, but I was able to see the events from a new perspective. D'Wayne gave me full reign to take the project and run with it. That was exciting," Ogua said.
The significance of winning the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest last year
"It was so much fun. I had been to the CommUnity Brunch before, so I decided to enter my speech last year and won!" said Ogua, who has training in theater and experience performing improv.
His favorite MLK quote
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." – Martin Luther King Jr.
His plans after CMU
"I want to return to Detroit and work with youth. I am really passionate about college access programs," Ogua said.