Otterbein’s Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation Features Black Studies Activist  

Posted Jan 10, 2023

Otterbein University will celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 17 and 18 with two days of reflection and service.  

Dr. Donja Thomas
Dr. Donja Thomas

On Jan. 17, Otterbein will participate in the National Day of Racial Healing with a livestream of a national discussion and Rx Racial Healing Circles. On Jan. 18, Otterbein will host its annual convocation — featuring a keynote address by Dr. Donja Thomas and the return of Otterbein’s Gospel Choir— and a service project to benefit Worthington Resource Pantry members, service dogs with Pilot Dogs organizations, and homeless families in Columbus. All events are open to the public. 

The full schedule is as follows: 

Tuesday, Jan. 17: 

  • 2 p.m.: Livestream screening of The Healing Power of Story Telling, a critical dialogue featuring a panel of national experts presented by Courageous Conversation, University Chapel, Cochran Alley and North Grove Street. Livestream followed by Q&A. sponsored by the Otterbein University Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center and the Office of Social Justice and Activism. 
  • Various: Rx Racial Healing Circles, online. Contact: 

Wednesday, Jan. 18:  

  • 4:15 p.m.: Reception with Dr. Donja Thomas, Roush Hall, 27 S. Grove St. 
  • 5-7 p.m.: Pack-the-Mac and More Service Event, Campus Center, 100 W. Home St. Volunteers can sign up for 30-minute sessions. Contact Micia Clemmons at

The theme of this year’s event is “Together We Can Be THE Dream” — a theme that is shared with The King Center in Atlanta and with cities across our nation. 

“We believe that this theme fits nicely with our aim to help our students envision how they might commit to community service, activism, and giving to the betterment of others,” said Frank Dobson, director of Otterbein’s Center for Social Justice and Activism. 

Keynote speaker Thomas understands the need for service and activism, as an innovative and passionate educator, activist, writer, scholar, and Black studies curriculum developer whose life and career embody servant leadership. 

“My talk will center on the idea that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is not just about the attainment of an ideal aspiration; it is also about the determined ambition behind our collective intentions towards economic and social justice,” said Thomas. 
“My hope is that students feel empowered and recognize their own purpose as change makers, community leaders, and purpose-filled dream builders,” she added. 

Thomas is committed to establishing learning spaces of introspection that generate more critical and expansive understandings about cultural consciousness, social justice and equity-focused research, teaching, and service. 

For over a decade, Thomas has been engaged in creating classroom curriculums that center the use of cultural relevant and sustaining pedagogies, critical conscious literacies and the importance of employing curricular practices rooted in the Black experience (literary, historical, and cultural) inside and outside the classroom to advance Black Studies in K-12 schooling. 

She provides classroom opportunities for students that enhance their knowledge of the various contributions made to the U.S. and beyond by peoples of African descent. She also co-constructs with racially diverse student’s brave spaces in which they can be open and vulnerable, honor their beings, and honestly critique constructs of race, class, and identity through examination of Black cultural and literary practices. 

As an avid advocate for consciousness development, she engages in creating, developing, and producing texts and platforms focused on promoting self-love, resilience, spiritual awareness, positive thinking, cultural pride, and leadership development. 

On this annual day of remembrance, Thomas hopes people reflect on the important things: “We tend to find so many people celebrating MLK the dreamer, but we often don’t affirm or pursue the fulfillment of his dream. On MLK Day, people should reflect on what part they are playing in fulfilling the dream.”