BY JURRY TAALIB-DEEN
Journal Staff Writer
Approximately 1700 people attended the 13th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Celebration on Monday, January 20 at the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena. The 2014 theme was “Defending the Dream.”
Some of those offering comments at the event included Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, president of The University of Toledo, Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and Ray Woods, president of the local chapter of the NAACP and president of UAW Local 14 would deliver the keynote address.
In addition, there would be musical selections by the Toledo Interfaith Mass Choir and the Toledo Community Youth Choir. Also, the MADD Poet Society would perform a couple of spoken word selections. Tony Rios of Voces Latina would be the Master of Ceremonies and Kristian Brown of 13abc would be the Mistress of Ceremonies.
“I believe it’s the role of great universities, like the University of Toledo, to ensure the dream is within reach for all,” Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, UT President, said in his welcoming.
Newly elected Toledo Mayor, D. Michael Collins said, “We have made progress but we still have work to do to be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
“We have a responsibility and an opportunity to defend the dream, which part of that entails making sure our children get an education,” said Dr. Shanda Gore, chief diversity officer and associate vice president of Equity, Diversity and Engagement at the University of Toledo.
Dr. Gore said that, in addition to the event, seven UT students would receive scholarships ranging from $1500-$3000.00. Those receiving the funds had to be in high academic standing and be involved in community.
Over the years, she said being involved with the event has had a very positive impact on her life.
“This event makes me more aware of the need to talk about our past, celebrate where we are and keep moving forward,” Dr. Gore said.
When it was time for Ray Wood to deliver his address, he approached the podium and first, pointed to the youth in the audience and the scholarship recipients sitting directly in front of him and said, “They’re the reason we need to defend the dream.”
Mr. Wood would continue by saying if Dr. King was alive he would speak out against gang violence, right to work and the foreclosure issue. But Mr. Wood said he strongly believes that Dr. King would praise American troops.
But Mr. Wood didn’t just focus on the historical accounts of Dr. King; he said that everyone needs to actively engage in building the community.
“Dr. King had a dream; it’s time for us to have a dream. We can’t hide behind his works, we need to start building,” he said. Then, Mr. Wood followed up with a quote from Dr. King; “Not only will we have to repent for the sins that we’ve done and others but the appalling silence of good people.”
Deborah Black was in the audience with her family. Attending the yearly event is a tradition she said.
“We can’t forget what those before us went through,” she said.
Her 14 year old daughter, Simone, was also in attendance. She said “I’m here to celebrate how Dr. King made my life better by helping to end segregation.”
Following the event, the non-perishable food items that everyone was encouraged to bring, would be delivered to the Martin Luther King Kitchen for the Poor. In addition, many of the young people in attendance would visit senior citizens at nursing homes.
The UT students who received the scholarships were Johnnie Atwell, Breon Mitchell, Tyrone Jacobs, Lydia Simms, Anthony Struffolino, Lavelle Ridley and Donald Beatty.
The Martin Luther King Unity Award Winner for community activism was Sam Robinson.