Media Fellowship House (MFH), the Media Area Unit NAACP and local houses of worship welcomed the community to the 29th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration on Sunday at First United Methodist Church.
The program not only honored Dr. King, but those who fought against oppression. It was an afternoon that balanced both the past and the present – especially with President Trump’s most recent comments about “sh-thole countries.”
“For those who may be here as a result of DACA, welcome. We want to welcome everyone. Not just people who look like us or a little different,” said Robin Cook, MFH president.
Laurie L. Levenson, Esq., a law professor and director of the Center for Legal Advocacy at Loyola Law School of Loyola Marymount University, was the keynote speaker. She lectures regularly throughout the country and has offered legal commentary for CBS, CNN, ABC, NBC and NPR, on a range of high-profile cases, including the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the Rodney King beating trial, the Menendez murder trials, the Michael Jackson molestation case, the Scott Peterson murder trial, the Bernard Madoff investigation, the Clinton impeachment, the Robert Blake murder trial, and the prosecution of Anna Nicole Smith’s physicians.
Levinson discussed some of the challenges faced today ranging from education, relationships, criminal justice, and other topics.
“How can we have a situation where people are demeaned in that way?” she said about the Trump’s comments this week. “If we can’t control what others say, we can control what we do and say. Many of us thought we were beyond this.”
“We are a country of immigrants. He’s also just wrong. These aren’t people who drag down our society, they lift up our society,” said Levinson, who pointed out that people from Africa who come to America have a higher percentage of college degrees than people from Norway.
In addition to its musical program and special guests, MFH introduced the inaugural “Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall of Fame.” Chosen by the community at large, the individuals selected have emulated Dr. King’s qualities including loyalty, leadership, integrity, honesty, determination and courage
The 10 initial inductees were represented on posters illustrated and designed by artist George Rothacker. Following this inaugural year, two additional people will be added annually to the Hall of Fame.
Marie Whitaker and Dorothy James, founders of MFH, were the first inductees. In 1944, Whitaker went to an area restaurant with her infant daughter and was refused service. Embarrassed, they got up and left. James, a Quaker woman who was dining in the restaurant, witnessed it and also left. James approached Whitaker to go to lunch someplace else and talk and it served as the catalyst for the creation of MFH.
“Over 70 years later, we are still working on that mission and fighting that same fight,” said Jerry Duffy, MFH executive director “Dr. King’s life… should not be forgotten. A community gathering like this is vital to fight this global attitude – it’s been a rough couple of years. More now than ever, we need programs like the Dr. King celebration.”
“There are no words to express my love and respect for her and what her and my father did together,” said Gail Whitaker.
James Mason, the Media NAACP president, spoke about his late grandmother, Ethel Mason, a community activist and advocate for children who was also inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Mason, and her daughter, Martha, along with friends, started the Nether Providence Day Care Center for children and working mothers. Today, the Ethel Mason Development Center continues to play an active role in the community.
“Grandmom was tiny but she was strong. She had the heart of a giant,” said James Mason. “When people came to our house, they had an attitude of ‘no, no, no,’ and by the time they left they were saying, ‘yes, yes, yes.”