Kenosha marks King Day
The dream of late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. turned to technology to promote unity and transcend multiple generations at a celebration commemorating his life and legacy Monday.
At the 24th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration at Gateway Technical College’s Madrigrano Auditorium, the theme of “New Generations, New Dreams” gave the more than 200 people attending a unique perspective on how King’s dream is viewed today, incorporating a panel discussion on experiences of African-Americans of different generations, a video presentation of local humanitarians, as well as audience interactive polling via text messaging.
Dignitaries and officials at the event included U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Gateway President Brian Albrecht and Gateway Executive Vice President and Provost Zina Haywood.
This year, for the first time, a panel discussion took the place of the traditional keynote speakers and included the perspectives of Dionna Gavin, an organizational development business partner for Milwaukee’s Froedtert Health; Dorothy Walker, dean of the School of Technology and Applied Sciences at Milwaukee Area Technical College; and Harborside Academy students David Harrell II and Maxwell Walker.
Dorothy Walker said, as a baby boomer, the civil rights movement and King’s efforts allowed her generation to understand the importance of education, leading to opportunities for good paying jobs.
“I think the civil rights movement allowed us to really set the stage for how these changes take place,” she said.
The status of King’s dream, however, depends on who is looking at it, according to Gavin, who is a millennial.
Moderator Adelene Greene asked the audience to text their responses to a live interactive poll. A majority of respondents, or 79 of the 128 who participated, said that “some progress” has been made, while 31 believed “great progress has been made.” Smaller numbers said King’s mission was accomplished or was “still a dream.”
Gavin said, while progress has been made, there are still structural barriers and disparities from health to employment to the disproportion of African-Americans incarcerated.
She encouraged people to re-read King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and to understand the difference between equity, where “everyone has a fair shot”, and equality where “everyone has the same things” to be successful.
“I think we still have great progress to make in those areas,” she said. “But I’m very encouraged by seeing my generation and everyone in this room.”
She alluded to King’s “fierce urgency of now,” encouraging people to make progress on the issues a priority.
For Harrell, the dream, as an African-American male, at times has mixed messages.
“I am living the American dream. I have two parents. They own a house. They have cars for which they are able to pay, but, at the same time, it’s like a puzzle piece is missing without living Dr. King’s dream because, for certain things, it’s sort of awkward doing them,” he said.