A Weekend of MLK Events

It was a pleasure to be part of the events sponsored by the King Coalition of Madison and Dane County this last weekend. The King Coalition spends a year planning the events of Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, to honor the work Dr. King started, remind us the work is not done, and then encourage us to do the work that we each have the ability and responsibility to do. 

              The weekend began with a free community meal on Friday, which I was not able to attend, but heard the fellowship and joy shared by people of different professions, color, economic status and age was moving. I was honored to be part of the Ecumenical service held Sunday afternoon at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. The service was inspirational. We were all called to participate in the continued work of Dr. King. Other clergy participating in the service included Rev. Jackie Colbert, Mt. Zion Baptist; Carmen Porco, CEO, American Baptist Housing Ministry; Rev. Stephen Marsh, Lake Edge Lutheran Church; and Rev. Harold Rayford, Faith Hope & Love Church. The speakers called us to remember that Dr. King wanted equality for all. Disparities in the community include, but are not limited to, race, class, economics, education, disabilities, and sexual identity. If we are to move forward, we need to put aside our differences, and be willing to sit at the table holding hands with everyone. 

The final event on Monday, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance, was a grand culmination of the weekend’s events. The keynote address was given by Ambassador Andrew Young. Rev. Young, who is an ordained UCC minister, reminded us again that we are not done with this work. He said, “I don’t think we’re even close to being done.” Young told about the experiences he had as mayor of Atlanta and how they were able to make changes in employment. He talked about meeting with white business leaders in Birmingham after the businesses had been boycotted by the black population. He encouraged all of the youth to move forward with the belief that they can be successful and to not allow labels to keep them from their goals. 

It was a special treat for a few of us UCC clergy present to be able to meet Ambassador Young after the event. We learned in our visit with him, that it was really through the UCC, and being sent to Memphis on a different project, that he met Dr. King. It was after doing some work for Dr. King (across the hall), that he later became  one of Dr. King’s principal lieutenants. 

One of the highlights of the evening for me was the acceptance speeches of the two Humanitarian award winners. The Youth award was presented to Jessie Brown by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. Jessie started her activism at the age of 16. She was an articulate young woman who was not intimidated by the crowd in front of her. She thanked her teachers at Shabazz High School for teaching her that she had a voice. What a gift she is to our community!

The second Humanitarian award was presented to Hazel Symonette, by Mayor Paul Soglin. She has worked at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for over 30 years, teaching students how to be resilient in the face of resistance. Her speech included many quotable lines. I wish I could have written them all down fast enough to share all of them, but she concluded her remarks with, “Happiness depends on what happens; but joy dwells within. Let nothing and nobody steal your joy.” she said.

And finally, what a joy to hear and be moved by the MLK Community Choir, both on Sunday afternoon and Monday evening. The choir was directed by Leotha Stanley, Director of Music at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and his wife Tamera. The enthusiasm, talent and message of the choir brought people at both events to their feet many times. The spirit of all of the events was contagious. Many times during the events I wished our whole congregation could have been present.

Thanks to the King Coalition for the events of the weekend. I encourage everyone to plan on attending at least one of the events in 2015. I’m sure the members of the committee are already planning.


~ Eldonna Hazen



Posted on January 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm in Featured.

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