JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS)– Jackson College celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day virtually this year with a presentation titled ‘Hope, Inspire, Believe.’
During the event, the 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal of Service was presented posthumously to Benny Poole, who passed away in December. Poole was a lifelong musician who continued to play and entertain with his beloved saxophone into his 90s.
The panel also featured a discussion between Jackson College’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Belonging Lee Hampton, and keynote speaker Rejji Hayes, who offered words of inspiration on “Dr. King’s Dream for Today.” Hayes is Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for CMS Energy and Consumers Energy.
“If you study Dr. King’s life, it’s quite clear that he had no illusion about the risks he was taking. Not just for himself, but for his family and his supporters and he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for societal change because he had real clarity in his vision for what the county could become,” Hayes said during the virtual fireside chat.
Although the nation has come a long way when it comes to racial equality, panel leaders said there is still work to be done, and added that many of the things Dr. King said and wrote during his movement still apply today.
“After the murders of George Floyd and the various other instances of racial inequality and social injustice that we witnessed over the course of 2020 if you just think back about the size and the diversity of the crowds gathered in unified support of racial equality and social justice. I mean, those crowds even exceeded those achieved by Dr. King many years ago and so all of these examples give me hope,” Hayes said.
Hampton echoed his optimism, saying “This is a moment of hopefulness that I’ve not seen in my lifetime. I’ve seen little spurts but this one is sticking.”
As the fight to ‘keep the dream alive’ continues, Hayes said addressing racial disparities and inequalities in our current society starts with yourself.
“First and foremost, particularly for those of you who are not as well aquatinted with systemic racism, it’s critically important that you broaden your perspective. Address racism when you see it. Do not be passive,” Hayes said.
In the words of Dr. King, “No one is free until we are all free.”