PITTSBURG — Free Hugs Guy encourages people to avoid causing violence while speaking up for what is right.
Ken Nwadike Jr., known as the “Free Hugs Guy” was invited by Pittsburg State University’s Gorilla Activities Board to visit with PSU students and staff on Friday.
GAB member Brittany Worthington said the brought in the American documentary filmmaker, speaker and peace activist, after he was a keynote speaker at a convention.
“We really loved his message of love and we wanted to bring that back here because we love our students,” she said.
Nwadike said he was motivated to attend the 2014 Boston Marathon after the devastation of the 2013 race, becoming the founder of the Free Hugs Project.
“Free hugs share that humanity with strangers,” he said. “A high five is not enough, it’s too quick. Shaking hands is too common.
“Hugging shares the message that someone sees you, and you share that bond.”
Nwadike shows up at riots and rallies to encourage them to not destroy their own community, he said.  
“I hate seeing that over and over across various communities across the country,” he said. “Now when there is an uprising, I try to rush in as quick as possible to bridge the gap between the opposing sides.
“I hear you, I feel your pain as well, but still you must build your community not tear it down.”
Nwadike also shares his message by visiting communities and schools.
“They see things, they see injustices and see things they may otherwise before would have said ‘that doesn’t concern me so I’m going to stay out if it,’” he said. “Now they are being challenged to say, ‘hey, that’s not right’ and here’s a positive approach I can take for raising awareness for that cause or helping find that solution.
“It’s a way of better equipping young people to stand up and when you see something, say something. Get involved.”
With hugs, Nwadike said, “especially politics, despite all of these these things we can just be human together.”
According to a release, the project gained popularity as he made major news headlines for his peacekeeping efforts and de-escalation of violence during protests, riots, and political rallies. He has received widespread recognition, with more than 25 million video views.   
He was featured in Google’s 2016 Year in Search video as a highlight among some of the year’s most defining moments, and has made numerous appearances on news programs, including CNN, USA Today, Good Morning Britain, and BBC News.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.