LANSING, MI - LANSING, MI - The 35th Annual MLK Day of Celebration took place at the Lansing Center on Monday, Jan. 20th. It is presented by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan.
The event began at 11am with the doors opening at 10:15am and 1,800 people in attendance. This year’s theme is “There comes a time when silence is betrayal," a Dr. King quote.
Many Michigan leaders were guest speakers, including U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, and the Mayors of Lansing and East Lansing, Andy Schor and Ruth Beier, respectively. There were musical performances by Lansing’s The Music of the Dream Orchestra, and a special musical performance by R&B and jazz recording artist Ledisi.
Students in grades 8 - 12 received scholarships and awards from the MLK Commission. They were recognized for their creativity in the student essay contest. Winners of the commission’s art contest were also recognized with a video of the winners’ presentation last week at the MSU Art Lab on East Grand Avenue.
The key speaker was award-winning author Andrew Aydin, who is also a top aide to U.S. Rep. John Lewis. Lewis was originally scheduled to speak at the event, but could not attend due to health issues.
HOMTV spoke with Aydin about his award-winning comics work, "MARCH," that details the march in Selma, Alabama, 55 years ago. “March” is the second most used graphic novel in schools. He says, "Millions of young people have read it in just the last six and a half years ‘MARCH’ has been available. We’ve found through visiting schools, meeting with those who have read the books, or have messaged us via social media or sent letters to the congressman that the young people have heard us and decided they’re going to become activists."
Elaine Hardy, chairperson of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan, also spoke with HOMTV. She says, "Our celebration brings all people of life together. Old people, young people, students, professors, black people, white people, people who are from different faiths and different beliefs of all types. One of my favorite things I get to do is stand on the stage and look out at that beautiful sea of humanity that is America.”
She also explains this year’s theme, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” “We wanted to highlight the fact that when Dr. King wrote his letter from the Birmingham Jail, he was saying you betray humanity when you don't speak out about injustice. Those of us who have power of a voice, betray ourselves when we don't speak out about injustice when we see it."
Hardy believes that what Dr. King bequeathed to this entire nation was a belief in the ideal of what America should be for all individuals. She concluded by saying, "Until we live in a country where everyone, no matter who they are, where they hail from, who they love, or how they worship, talk or look like…until all of us have the same freedom…our civil rights movement is not over, and we are not done with the work."