Many in our community attended the sold-out Peace and Freedom Breakfast Celebration on January 20, 2020. This was the thirteenth year of this successful celebration, which includes the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Central Ohio Regional Oratorical/Art/Poetry/Essay Contest.
It is hard to believe that this all began in 2007 with a small group of six women, meeting to discuss why wasn’t Marion doing something to celebrate Dr. King, Jr. on this annual national holiday. The next year this would be different when they successfully held their first Oratorical/Art/Poetry/Essay Contest at the RHAM building and Breakfast to celebrate Dr. King Jr. to recognize those first winners. That first breakfast event hosted 75 people at the Harding Hotel. The fifth-anniversary breakfast hosted their first speaker Robert Lyons Jr at the May Pavilion.
Today, the Breakfast hosted over 340 people in the May Pavilion and the Contest winners were celebrated in the Palace Theatre. The Ross Brothers, Harding High graduates, shared their successes and where their hard work has taken them in their lives today. The children’s choir hosted over 40 talented kids, singing their hearts out on the Palace stage. The Oratorical/Art/Poetry/Essay Contest winners represent schools from throughout the county and of multiple ages. The oration part of the competition took place earlier in the month, hosted at the Marion Public Library. It was open as always for all to attend and be inspired by the talent of Marion’s youth with their speeches.
Lora Troutman said, “We are proud of the diversity of the Breakfast Celebration. We love seeing so many people of our community gathering together to celebrate, including parents and their children, teachers, churches, and community leaders. The Committee was thrilled to have thirteen youth tables sponsored by local businesses this year.”
Some of the first women that came together to form the Peace and Freedom Committee were Lora Troutman, Lucinda Richardson, Dedra Randle, and Melissa Starks. Lucinda Richardson made sure that the first year the competitions happened. Lora Troutman has been the president for the last 12 years with Dana Hanif-Booker president in 2019.
But these ladies are quick to give recognition to others that have made this event and others possible like Marion Community Foundation, Marion Rotary Club, Ohio Health Marion, Mike Zucker, Marion Public Library, Marion’s Kohls Cares program, Marion Altrusa Club and the Marion Palace staff and volunteers. It is truly a community effort that makes this annual event a success.
But this is not to say that the group doesn’t strive for more. Dana Hanif-Booker shared,
“We would love to see more kids involved in the competitions, with more schools getting their students involved in the contest and more kids attending the event in the Palace.” The Committee works to reach out to more schools and teachers each year. They are working with the Boys & Girls Club and the Library’s after school programs to inspire more children to be involved.
The Committee’s goals have a wider focus. Though youth programs are their primary emphasis, it is not the sole purpose. Throughout the year they are involved in a series of events including their annual the Hats Off to You Ladies Luncheon, the Juneteenth Celebration, and historical -chartered bus trips. Their future plans include continuing these annual celebrations with dreams of having their own building someday. This building would be able to host a museum, banquet rentals, office space and a stage for community programs. They want to also do more outreach programs for seniors.
But meanwhile, they will strive to continue their successful events and inspire our next generations with words like these of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.- “Intelligence plus character- that is the goal of true education.” Thank you to the Peace and Freedom Committee for helping our community to be a part of the rich diversity heritage and future for Marion County.