By Eric Hehl, Jeff McGinnis, and Athena Cocoves
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968
2018 marks 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by an assassin’s bullet.
Thirty-nine years old and one of many leaders spearheading the Civil Rights Movement that changed the face of America, his tragic and untimely death left a scar on our nation. But Dr. King’s legacy lives on.
In his most famous speech, Dr. King spoke boldly of his dream: a time when he saw people of all nations and colors joining hands, being judged solely by the content of their character.
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
How Local Community Groups Honor His Message
By Eric Hehl
In Dr. King’s final speech, delivered the night before he was killed, he spoke almost prophetically: “[while] I may not get there with you, […] we as a people will get to the Promised Land.”
If we’re to get there together, we must each do our part in making the dream a reality: through education, serving the poor and taking a stand against hate. His call to action resonates as loudly today as it did 50 years ago. Opportunities to serve are plentiful, and many organizations provide ways to join the fight.
Here are two Toledo’s front lines: the YWCA and the MLK Kitchen for the Poor.
YWCA efforts to eliminate racism
Taking a lead in the battle against poverty and inequality is the YWCA of Northwest Ohio. “In the last three or four years we’ve taken a very active role in our social justice advocacy,” says Lisa McDuffie, president, and CEO. “We’ve become a little louder and a little bolder on issues that we know are not right.”
The YWCA works to educate and train the community on social issues and has organized unity marches the last two years, working to establish that common thread. “Hatred is a universal problem,” McDuffie said.
“Part of our mission is to eliminate racism and to empower women,” said McDuffie, adding that the YWCA actively works to establish a dialogue regarding race, discrimination, and sexism.
McDuffie encourages those interested in joining this conversation to attend the YWCA’s “Dialogue to Change” course. “It’s a series we offer to community members for free and it encourages people to come in and have a conversation about racism and experiences. These discussions are best done in groups of folks with diversity because that’s how you gain an understanding of people’s experiences,” she said.
419-241-3235 | ywcanwo.org
MLK Kitchen for the Poor meets community’s needs
Working tirelessly to stamp out hunger in our area is the MLK Kitchen for the Poor. Harvey Savage Jr., director of the kitchen, said that their mission is very simple: “Mainly, we give food to people.” Savage said they serve several thousand people a month in various ways, supporting and coordinating with other organizations. “We live in the center of a poverty-stricken area. People here can tell you what happens when children don’t eat adequately, and all the negativity that comes with that.”
The motivation for the kitchen came from Savage’s father, who founded it after he saw a man behind his house eating from a garbage. “My dad invited him in to eat,” he said. “That was the inspiration, he based it on that and named it after King, because he was such an admirer of what King did.”
Savage said the best way to get involved is to give them a call. “People need to make themselves available to help. We need to help people up out of poverty. We can’t keep putting a band-aid on it and call it a day.”
419-241-2596 | kitchenforthepoor.org
Poor People’s Campaign:
A National Call for Moral Revival
By Athena Cocoves
In 1967, Dr. King spoke of the need for “a radical redistribution of economic and political power.” He wanted a new march on Washington to demand better jobs, better homes, and better education for Americans living in poverty. A bullet prevented him from realizing his plan for the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968, but the values and ideas he preached are now getting picked up nationally in a movement spearheaded by Rev. William Barber II.
Toledoans from the Campaign’s Ohio Chapter are working to make sure the local community is involved in the movement.
Sam Melden, who had been following Dr. Barber’s preaching and activism, helped bring the Campaign to Toledo.
“We are in a time of intense division between human beings and we are seeing a polarization of issues. This is a campaign for the people and of the people… this is a campaign where faith and politics are held together as necessary partners… and it holds seemingly separate ideas together through fusion politics,” Melden says. “I hope to see everyday Toledoans, both people of faith and people who don’t subscribe to a particular faith, come together to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality.”
Rev. John C. Jones, Associate Minister at Christian Temple Baptist Church and Community Liaison at ProMedica, says that the Campaign seeks to “develop real strategies and implement them within communities. This is more than throwing money at a problem. It is more than opening a food pantry or kitchen. It is a nuanced approach that must be implemented by culturally competent people with care, compassion, and expertise.”
Representing the NAACP in the Campaign is Kenyatta Jones, who introduced President Obama at Scott High School on Labor Day 2013 and served as citizen co-chair of his inauguration, hopes that the campaign will “restore our morality and values and [the desire to] treat each other with respect and dignity.”
“We’re in a climate to implement and force change for human rights,” Jones said. “Not only are we in a fight for fair political representation, gun reform etc, but we are also and have always been in the trenches to impact change and the influence of basic human rights. When we research and understand the lack of basic needs that so many faces, such as jobs, education, proper housing, we understand, as well as, recognize that these basic needs have always been inadequate for many of us. American citizens have the right, to have not only freedom but adequate opportunities that will allow them to live, sustain and flourish in a community that they can build.”
To learn more about this effort locally, join the Campaign’s Ohio Chapter during a Teach-In: 6-8pm. Tuesday, April 3. Toledo Area UAW CAP Council, 2300 Ashland Ave.
Toledo Opera Presents ‘I Dream’:
Remembering His Final 36 Hours
By Jeff McGinnis
To illuminate and celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, the Toledo Opera will host a new production: ‘I Dream,’ Douglas Tappin’s rhythm and blues opera focused on the final 36 hours of Dr. King’s life.
A legend in his own time
“I Dream is an opera that reexamines some of the major points in Martin Luther King’s life through his perspective, as he tries to reconcile his public persona with his private humanity,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein, who has directed over 100 shows, both on Broadway and around the world, developed this production of I Dream in both New York and with a performance at the Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids earlier this year.
“I think the show examines the life of an icon as a human being and sees where he struggled with that duality, of being a legend in his own time,” Goldstein said.
For Derrick Davis, playing that icon is the latest step in a career that has seen him take on his fair share of iconic roles, having played both Mufasa and Scar in The Lion King on Broadway, and recently completing a long tour in The Phantom of the Opera title role. Since landing the Dr. King part in I Dream, Davis has worked to immerse himself in the history of the man and the civil rights movement.
“This show delves deep into the truth and the humanity, and the soul of the man, and his struggles and his internal turmoil.”
– Derrick Davis, who will star as Dr. King.
“The civil rights movement in this country was intense and the lasting ramifications are still felt today,” Davis said. “Even though some parts of it were not explored in the show, because there’s only so much time in a show, I felt that it was my responsibility to have a solid understanding of this portion of our history— this way, when I open my mouth to say the words of Dr. King, there’s the weight of understanding and the history behind each and every word I say.”
Davis’ recent personal history has uniquely qualified him for this journey, as well. While touring in Phantom, Davis often found himself performing in cities that were racial hotbeds during the civil rights movement, surrounding him with the history recreated in I Dream. Davis is now 39— the same age as Dr. King when he was killed.
“I hope that this show encourages people to stand up for truth, love, hope and a forward momentum— as they see him as an individual,” Davis said. “Because the work isn’t done. There’s so much more that needs to be accomplished, and I hope that this will be a catalyst. And I feel that it’s the perfect time for this story to be told, and his words to be heard again, and for the spirit of his message to penetrate our hearts and live inside of us again.”
- A free Tuesday Talk, featuring a discussion with composer and librettist Douglas Tappin and producer James Meena, will be held at 5:30pm on Tuesday, April 3 at The Truth (1811 Adams St.).
- ‘I Dream’ will be performed at 7:30pm on Friday, April 6 and Saturday, April 7 and at 2pm on Sunday, April 8. $40-$90. Valentine Theatre, 410 Adams St., 419-255-7464. toledoopera.org