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Columbia celebrates diversity with 19th annual ceremony

Thursday, January 12, 2012 | 12:19 p.m. CST; updated 4:11 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 12, 2012
The Stephens College dance department performs an African piece, choreographed by Ryan Johnson, during the 2012 Columbia Values Diversity Awards Ceremony, held Thursday morning at the Holiday Inn Executive Center.

COLUMBIA — Otto Steinhaus, a retired United Methodist minister, wrote his first invocation for the Columbia Values Diversity Celebration seven years ago, at the request of his son.

Since then, Steinhaus has written invocations about diversity, and tailors them to the theme of each year's celebrations. This year's invocation represents the theme, "One Community, Many Stories."

2012 Diversity Breakfast Invocation

Theme: One Community, Many Stories

Let us pray today

To affirm together

That we are one community

With many stories

Cultures

Races

Religions

And occupations

Stories of the past

Stories of the present

And of stories yet to be

Today we give thanks

For our one community with many stories

Today we give thanks

For the freedom to share our stories

Today we give thanks

For the unity in our diversity

Today we give thanks

For the food and friendship we share as one community

Yes, we are thankful for the value diversity brings

To our one community

And to our many stories

So be it.

Yes, so be it!

Amen and Amen


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Steinhaus has reached out to different people to read his invocation every year. This year, he invited a high school student to show diversity in age, as well as members of different religious groups.

Hina Syed, a member of the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, was asked by Steinhaus to present this year's invocation, along with three others. Syed has never participated in the event before, and it was her first time reading an invocation on stage.

Syed said she was a little nervous because there were more people than she expected, but that it turned out well.

"I felt really good to be part of it," she said.

Steinhaus said he has endeavored to be careful and more generic in presenting different concepts of God and faith. He said he tried to be "religiously correct."

"I think this is a wonderful venue that lifts up diversity in Columbia," Steinahaus said.

While visitors munched on a breakfast that included quiche, fried potatoes and fruit, the Banana Oil Pan Band and the duo of Shiva Sanklap and Sachithri Fernando performed musical numbers.

An artistic program titled "One Community, Many Voices" followed the awards presentation. It featured skits, vocal and dance performances and video interviews with Columbia residents answering questions focused on diversity and the message of Martin Luther King Jr.

Members of the Stephens College Dance Department took the stage to the drum beats of "Take My House Back to Africa" by Palms Down, jumping in rhythm and contorting their bodies to the melody.

The program was book-ended with quotes from King, projected onto screens on either side of the stage. It concluded with the words: "People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

Monica Naylor, an emcee, has been on the event's organizing committee for several years and said it seems to get better every year.

Naylor said she particularly loved this year's inclusion of video interviews with Columbia residents and skits that added personal thoughts. Naylor said the performance reflected diversity within the city.

Hickman High School students, who had received word an hour earlier that they had been excused from classes for the day due to the snow, enjoyed the breakfast and the program. Representatives of student organizations were invited by faculty advisers.

Alexis Collins, a senior and captain of the Hickman dance team, said it was her first time attending the celebration but that she was impressed by its message and performances.

"I wish I had known about if before," Collins said.

Fatma El-Walid, a senior member of the school's chapter of Amnesty International, said Hickman was a welcoming place for students from various backgrounds.

"Even if you're a minority, you're still accepted," El-Walid said.

Myah McCrary, a senior and student government president, said she has attended the breakfast before and was impressed with the quality of this year's program.

"It was a really unique way they put it together," McCrary said.


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