By SUE SUCHYTA
HEIGHTS – The memory and mission of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were remembered Jan. 16 with speakers in the Annapolis High School gym, followed by a walk down Annapolis Street.
The speakers included Dearborn Heights District 7 Supt. Tyrone Weeks; Gina Wilson-Steward, president of the Western Wayne National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Kyra Harris Bolden and the Rev. Leon Porter of Champion Church of Dearborn Heights.
Weeks said many of the things that King was speaking about in 1968 are still issues today.
“We know there is income inequality, disparity in treatment of students and we know that there are issues that impact the poor,” he said.
Weeks said King was an exceptional human being who skipped ninth and 11th grade, and who entered Morehouse College when he was 15 years old.
“While at Morehouse College he saw the light,” he said. “He gave his life to service.”
Weeks said King visited Michigan multiple times and originally gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in Detroit.
“Sometimes, when we reflect on the progress we have had as a nation, we can become quite complacent,” he said. “We have our first person of color on the Michigan Supreme Court; we have the first African American woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court; the first African American woman to be in the White House, Vice President Kamala Harris; and the first African American President, Barack Obama.”
Weeks said that, despite the progress, there is still a lot of work to do.
“There is still a lot of racial and economic unrest in this country and it is our responsibility to continue to hold up the light and to continue to move forward, and to have the difficult conversations that have to happen for us to have a country where race does not matter,” he said.
Wilson-Steward said King used to say that the time was always right to do what was right.
“The man that we are celebrating today, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., lived his life as he hoped things would get better for African Americans throughout the United States, and especially in the South,” she said. “From the early 1950s to the 1960s, the world changed for the better for African Americans, and it was due to the leadership of Dr. King and his partnership with community groups, elected officials and church leaders.”
Wilson-Steward said King’s leadership coalesced during the 1955 to 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott, which protested segregated seating.
“Somebody saw something in him and knew that he was ready for the task,” she said.
Wilson-Steward asked those present what they would be willing to give up for a year to make things better in their own communities.
She said she is encouraged when she sees people of all ages working together to effect change and noted that the diversity she saw in the attendees indicated to her that Dearborn Heights was headed in the right direction.
“My hope is that more conversations about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be held not just on his birthday weekend, but throughout the year,” Wilson-Steward said. “People should know that he is more than the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” she said. “He was a preacher, pastor, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, civil rights activist, great orator, a peaceful protestor, a leader, an HBCU graduate, a father and a husband.”
HBCU refers to historically Black colleges and universities.
“I believe that if we work together and take on the hard-working values of Dr. King, we will reap a society full of leaders to tackle the problems of the world,” she said. “If we do, we will make our country, our state, our community, our block and our families better, one person at a time.”
Bolden said injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
She said her great grandfather was lynched in Tennessee in 1939, and that injustices like that occurred frequently, especially in the South.
“When I realized that, I knew I had to be in the justice system,” Bolden said. “If you have a calling or a purpose, you have to fulfill that.”
She said as the first Black woman to sit on the Michigan Supreme Court, it is an honor to be able to make decisions that will affect so many people in Michigan.
Bolden said people should not depend on the legislators, the courts and public safety officials alone to seek justice.
“It is incumbent upon every single one of us to make sure that we live in a Michigan that means equal justice for every single person, and it is up to us in positions of power to realize that for you,” she said.
Porter led those assembled in singing “We Shall Overcome,” a gospel song which became a protest song and anthem of the American civil rights movement.
“We stand today and we continue to dream,” he said. “We dream for racial equality, we dream for civil justice and we dream for a spirit of unity to break out not only here in the city of Dearborn Heights but across this nation and across this world.”