Celebrating Diversity and Dr. King’s Legacy

Posted on January 21, 2020

There were many opportunities throughout the area to celebrate and remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this week.

The weekend’s events included a Pastor’s Action Breakfast on Saturday, followed by the 14th annual “One in Christ” Community Service, sponsored by Operation Transformation in collaboration with Blue Water Area Churches, on Sunday. Both events featured dynamic speaker Anthony Jones, Howard University faculty member and former Port Huron resident.

On Monday morning Port Huron Area Schools, in partnership with our local NAACP, honored Dr. King’s legacy with a district-wide community service project- #1PHASDMLKDay initiative. Middle and high school students took part in Make a Blanket Day as they made fleece blankets to be donated to local homeless shelters. Funding for the project was provided by The Michigan Community Service Commission and local NAACP.

Elementary schools in the district participated in school-wide celebrations and assemblies that reflected on Dr. King’s message of love, peace and equality. Students were read the book “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña and given a presentation by local community leaders chosen by the NAACP. The speakers spoke to students about what Dr. King meant to them and facilitated follow-up discussions.

Our own Kevin Totty was the special guest for Crull School, towering over the young students as he read aloud the book by Peña, drawing attention to the experiences of a young boy and his grandmother as they rode the city bus through town.

Totty was moved by the message of the book and said “the bus ride was an experience that allowed the boy to experience the diversity of his community”- a guitarist playing for a blind man, a boy passing by in a new car, tattooed teenagers, commuters, and homeless individuals riding the bus to stay warm.

After the reading, Totty shared his wisdom and insight in a follow-up discussion with the students as he and Principal Charles Raski discussed strategies for including people and appreciating their differences.

Totty said the book was a great way to connect the students with Dr. King’s message of unity, respect and appreciation for others. “The young boy had to come to an appreciation of being ‘the kid who didn’t have a car’,” Totty said. “His grandmother taught him to be thankful for what he had while appreciating what everyone else has, finding the beauty in everything around him. The book emphasized that we are all stronger together.”

Later that night, the commemoration of Dr. King’s life and legacy continued with the 18th Annual MLK Day Celebration was held at SC4’s Fine Arts Theatre. The event, hosted by St. Clair County Community College and its Global Diversity Advisory Council, included a variety of speakers, musicians and other performances. The theme of this year’s event was “Extremists for the cause of justice.”

The Foundation’s Kevin Totty was the Master of Ceremonies, joined by speakers Port Huron NAACP President Kevin Watkins, SC4 President Dr. Deborah A. Snyder,  Port Huron Mayor Pauline Repp, and the keynote speaker for the evening, Yolanda Jack, from the Charles Wright Museum of African American History. Special musical and dramatic performances were presented by Lurlene Nichols, Tim Ries, Marilyn Moncrief, and SONS Talented Tenth.

The events coincide with recent actions and initiatives aimed at promoting and celebrating diversity throughout St. Clair County. Tyrone Burrell, Executive Director of SONS, acknowledged the recent efforts. “We appreciate the contributions of diversity from the Global Diversity Committee out of SC4, the Better Together group led by Kevin Watkins and Dan Damman, the new Diversity and Inclusion position created by the City of Port Huron and all of Operation Transformation’s local diversity events,” he said.

Burrell is also excited about how the local youth are joining in the cause, especially his Talented Tenth group. “The youth are including each other with a bond of unity and support,” he added.

“It’s an exciting time,” Burrell said. “I think we’re moving in a positive direction.”

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