Diversity celebration honors the dreams of a fallen activist

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COLUMBIA- The 23rd annual Columbia Values Diversity Celebration honored the teachings and philosophies of Martin Luther King, Jr. Thursday morning.

The purpose of the event is to bring together people from all walks of life to talk about the importance of inclusion.

JJ Musgrove, Director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, said that the celebration is one of very few in Columbia that gather to specifically discuss diversity.  

“It’s important for us to continue to support and produce this event because this is our community’s celebration of what it means to have a diverse community and how strong it makes us to be diverse,” Musgrove said.

Although race is one of the main topics of discussion, other subjects like sexual orientation, religion and disabilities were talked about as well. All dialogue regarding these focuses was on the basis of promoting inclusion.

One of the main events of the celebration is a guest speaker who gives a speech relating to the content of the event.

"We really go out and try to find thought-provoking speakers that talk about diversity,” Musgrove said.

This year Reverend Starsky Wilson, co-chair of the Ferguson Commission, was the speaker at the occasion.

The Ferguson Commission is an organization that goes to institutions to talk about what St. Louis and Ferguson are doing in the wake of the events that happened there in 2014.

Overall, the purpose of the speaker and celebration as a whole is to encourage people to reach out beyond the lines that separates them from their neighbors.

“We need to continue to be engaged in dialogue with each other as far as how we can come together and celebrate inclusiveness so that we can continue to talk to each other regardless of whatever it is that divides us,” Musgrove said.

Traci Wilson-Kleekamp is a member of the group “Race Matters, Friends” that attended the Columbia Values Diversity Celebration and aims to be active regarding race relations in the community.

“One of our main focuses right now is to have institutional change in our police department and with the city of Columbia,” Wilson-Kleekamp said.

This was the 19th year where the celebration gave away awards, presented by the mayor, to an organization and individual within the community who promoted diversity in the workplace and diversity values.

The winners are selected by a committee that reviews nominations from the community and decides who the best candidates would be.

“It’s a way for us to honor organizations and individuals that reflect Dr. King’s values and what we’re trying to achieve with inclusiveness within our community,” Musgrove said.

Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church was awarded the 2016 Diversity Award for groups and Barbra Horrell received the individual award.

Musgrove said that it doesn’t take a major activist or fearless leader to promote these values.

“We all can help promote diversity and inclusion very simply, and that is to not buy into a lot of the fear mongering that we are seeing in our country and that to embrace the fact that individuals that are different from us bring a different perspective to a situation,” Musgrove said. “By including different voices we can all become stronger.”

Ultimately, the event was hosted to celebrate individuals of all backgrounds and promote inclusion and kindness for all.  

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