King legacy still fosters cultural diversity through programs and events

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Information on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may be found in books at the Tecumseh District Library and other sources. Photo by Mickey Alvarado.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Although it has been 45 years since the assassination of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968, his influence continues yet today. President Ronald Reagan signed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day into law as a United states federal holiday in 1983. It was first observed on January 20, 1986, and officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000. This year, the holiday will be celebrated on Monday, Jan. 21.

Falling near Dr. King’s birthday on January 15, the holiday has become not only a day off for federal offices, including the U.S. Post Office, as well as some banks and other businesses and many schools, it has become a time to reflect on the legacy Dr. King left behind with his history of nonviolent activism.

In fact, federal legislation was also signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994 declaring Martin Luther King Day of Service, whereby people honor his memory by doing things for others in their communities, recalling something Dr. King once said, noting “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Lenawee Intermediate School District (LISD) is holding a “MultiKultural Celebration Day” on Monday, Jan. 21 as part of a countywide professional development day. The LISD has a long tradition of offering seminars and workshops celebrating cultural diversity on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and this year’s events take Dr. King’s influence a step farther with tours for LISD and local school district staff that will explore other cultures.

Some out-of-county tours include an “Inside Detroit” tour, a trip to Shipshewana, Ind., to learn about the Amish culture; a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills; a trip to Frankenmuth to study the German culture; and a tour at the Henry Ford Museum for a special symposium entitled, “With Liberty and Justice,” led by author Leonard Pitts.

Within the county, there also will be a presentation on “Diversity and the Historical Development of Lenawee County during the Civil War,” among others. Participants will also learn about homeless students as a subculture with a presentation by Beth McCollough, who is the county’s coordinator for homeless education.

In previous years, workshops have focused around Lenawee’s Hispanic culture, as well as presentations on disabilities and the special challenges encountered.
LISD Superintendent Jim Philp said the district has been holding Martin Luther King Jr. activities for more than a dozen years, and started by bringing in various speakers. LISD staff are now joined by staff from local districts as part of a professional development offering on the holiday, and the tours expand horizons and cultural awareness.

“It’s not just for racial understanding; it’s really a day for understanding differences,” said Philp. “That could include understanding racial differences, but also other cultural differences. For example, one of our tours this year is a trip to Shipshewana to explore the Amish culture, and there’s an activity about growing up in the south.” He said activities have been set up to look into a variety of topics.

Philp added that the activities definitely do relate to the King legacy and what he stood for.

“I think Dr. King was all about his passion for understanding other cultures and racial issues,” he said. “I believe our staff knows that by participating, they’re better people and better educators because they are better able to understand differences.”

Such activities help raise awareness about what people have in common and how they are different, and may help an individual realize how they can contribute to their community. As Martin Luther King Jr. also said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”




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