MLK celebration honors award recipients, highlights diversity work

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Students, faculty, community members, businesspeople and representatives from local organizations filled the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts for the ninth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Celebration on Wednesday, Jan. 24.

The nearly 500 attendees learned about the event’s theme of “Working Together, Sharing the Dream” through the examples of several regional MLK award recipients and keynote speaker Karen S. Carter, The Dow Chemical Company’s first chief inclusion officer.

The program, emceed by local news anchor Frank Turner, started off with the presentation of colors by the National Guard Armory Color Guards. They were accompanied by a performance from the Christ Central Choir, a Central Michigan University gospel choir.

The Midland Area, Bay Area and Saginaw Community Foundations also awarded 15 local high school seniors with MLK Regional Scholarship Awards at the program. The winners were chosen out of 50 applicants and were awarded $1,000 each for their demonstration of how they keep King’s dream alive in their schools and communities.

A video of the recipients reciting an excerpt of King’s speech “The Burning Truth in the South” followed the scholarship presentations.

“I always love that our students record one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches,” said Sharon Mortensen, President and CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation. “I think there’s something very meaningful about saying the words of someone because there’s a piece of when you say it, like the way they do, you’re starting to internalize it. I think that’s a meaningful part, too.”

Three MLK Drum Major Awards were also presented to community members Eileen Curtis, Randi Kawakita and Rufus Bradley Sr. for their service in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Carter joined Matt Davis, president for Dow North America, and Cynthia “Cynt” Marshall, president and CEO for Marshalling Resources, for a “fireside chat”-style conversation on realizing King’s dream. Carter, Davis and Marshall discussed strategies for achieving King’s dream, including being courageous rather than cautious, checking unconscious biases and using our voices to create positive change.

“If you see something, say something,” Carter said. “If you feel something, do something. And if you don’t like something, you change it. By working together, we will not only share the dream, but it will one day be realized.”

The program was closed with a performance of the song “Big” by the Christ Central Choir.

Zaid Haque, one of the MLK Regional Scholarship recipients planning to attend the University of Michigan, said he felt honored to receive the award and enjoyed attending the program.

“I thought it was great how Karen Carter and Matt Davis were talking and bringing more awareness to racial injustices that are prevalent in today’s society,” Haque said.

DeLois Leapheart, president of Adoption Option Inc., attended this year’s program and has attended several of the MLK Regional Celebrations in past years.

“It’s a newer generation talking about the future,” Leapheart said. “I thought it was one of the best they’ve ever had.”

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