Name: Demetries Neely
Hometown: Clover, SC
Current city: Gahanna, Ohio
Career: Lawyer and interim executive director of the King Arts Complex in Columbus.
Majors: MA ’81 African American Studies; JD ’84
Colleges: Arts and Sciences; Moritz College of Law
Extracurricular activities: Black Law Students Association
What messages that Dr. King spread still resonate most deeply with you today?
There are a few that are really important parts of my life. His message of service. Service is the rent we pay for occupying space on this earth. I also admire his messages of peace, harmony, and non-violence, and his practice of using these messages to build bridges. I’m humbled by my role at the King Arts Complex and we try to do things in his spirit. I know many people guide their lives by asking What Would Jesus Do. In my mind, I am always asking, “What Would Dr. King Do?” I’ve been on the Board at the King Arts Complex for 12 years, so it’s always been at the forefront of my mind to live my life like he did his.
Has your appreciation for Dr. King grown through the years?
Absolutely. It’s grown because I am always learning new things about him. I’ve become more and more familiar with his speeches and the way that he lived his life. As a lifelong learner, I have a lifelong pursuit of Dr. King’s messages and the way he used them to affect change.
How does the King Arts Complex work to keep Dr. King’s vision alive?
We do it by keeping the pursuit of excellence in front of people. Dr. King taught us to pursue achievement and excellence. If you dig ditches, be the best ditch digger in the world. If you are a street sweeper, be the best at it. Dr. King was also a big believer in education, and we try to educate through the pursuit of arts and knowledge at the King Complex.
What are some new things happening at the King Arts Complex that people may want to check out?
We opened our Cityscapes Yesteryear exhibit. The exhibit features Photos and paintings of Columbus and was created as a part of Columbus’s bicentennial celebration. It’s actually the first art exhibition of the year that commemorates our 200 years of being a city and runs until March 3. It’s a beautiful collection of art and photographs and some of the works are for sale. The exhibit features the work of local painters Harvey Gilliam, Leon Page, and Roman Johnson, and photographer Kojo Kamau. These artists share a common bond and document the shared experience of Columbus from 1950s to present time. We have some great programs scheduled for Dr. King Day as well, and will be having people help us create gumball mural of Dr. King. Families and individuals will help put this together so it’s a community project. You’ll get a strip and you and your team will be part of putting each strip together and at end it will be a permanent installation. We envision people coming back to see the installation recalling that their family had a part in building this permanent installation.
What does Ohio State mean to you?
I love Ohio State. It’s a great institution that you can say you are proud to be an alumni of. I am proud of my two degrees. Ohio State is one of the premier institutions in country and the education credentials are high end. When I say I have a law degree from Ohio State it carries a great deal of prestige. The prestige and pride of Ohio State are very important to me.
What advice would you give to a current student?
Don’t take the opportunity to get an education for granted. Your education will be one of the most important investments in life. You can use a college degree to parlay you into a great life, a global life. The world is getting smaller, and I’m glad and proud to be college educated because that college education helps me understand and navigate the world market better. So get involved, take classes that increase your worldview, not just ones that fit your degree. When you leave you’ll be a better world citizen.
What was your most memorable moment at Ohio State?
I was here from 1979-84 so one of my memories is of the 1980 presidential campaign when Ronald Reagan was elected. I remember being galvanized by a campus newspaper named—Our Changing Times. It informed us and educated us about world affairs. I still have copies of some of the papers.
And I remember so many of the people. Dr. Frank Hale was driving force behind me coming to Ohio State and I’m just one of 10s of thousands of people he helped. I met so many world citizens at Ohio State and the opportunity to interact with them is a great memory.
Who were some of your favorite faculty members?
Dr. Hale is one for sure. Dr. Nelson was head of Black Studies dept. Lots of faculty in law school Dr. Morgan Shipman and taught tax and the way he approached his class made you want to learn. He entertained you and made the subject matter interesting. Dr. Morrison, in Black Studies was another one. There were just so many great people and professors that I met at Ohio State. My experience was incredibly good and memorable. It lasts forever and has made me who I am today.
What was your favorite campus hangout and why?
The Union was a big one because of the diversity of things you could do. They had a bowling alley and lots of places to eat and activities and you could obviously study there. I spent a great deal of time at the Union. I also really enjoyed the shopping on campus and the different retail shops on High Street. I bought a lot great clothes and shoes in those stores!