Hundreds of attendees gathered at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel for the 28th annual Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. With two levels and a backdrop of a large 41-stop mechanical-action organ, the memorable event had guests thinking, questioning and on their feet.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr., the well-known founder of America & MOORE, an organization that provides diversity, privilege and leadership trainings. Moore gave a speech that was energizing and sprinkled with humor. He said while he was writing it, he thought about the totality of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work.
Moore talked about Dr. King’s allies, like Bayard Rustin, an openly gay Black colleague who was a key designer of the March On Washington, but someone we don’t often hear about He thought about how Dr. King gave up to 450 speeches a year but how we remember just one. Moore said we can’t forget that Dr. King was critical.
“This guy was not liked alive. Loved dead, hated alive. We got to remember that,” said Moore.
Moore reminded the audience that in 1967, three years after Dr. King’s’ famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, he reflected and reviewed the nation. Dr. King said that the dream he had that day in 1963, in some ways has turned into a nightmare. Moore then asked what Dr. King would think of times today.
“Just imagine you are in a wrestling meet and your hair is too long so they chop it off. You are sleeping in the lounge in college [and] the popo gets called,” said Moore. “Starbucks; coffee while Black. Hilton; guest while Black. Cook out-–I mean you can’t even cook out.”
Then he brought it back home, mentioning the Baraboo class picture in whch students raised a Nazi salute.
Norys Piña, a powerful Latina in the Fox Valley area, won the MLK Community Leader award at the celebration. Seventeen years ago Pina moved to Appleton from Venezuela hoping for a new experience for her and her family. She consistently works towards making her community a more compassionate, diverse and inclusive place. She is the leader of “Unidos por un Futuro Mejor – Fox Cities,” which empowers and educates Latinx in the Fox Valley, she is the volunteer coordinator of the Fox Valley Literacy Council an educator and more. She was named on of the most influential Latina leaders in Wisconsin by Madison365 in 2017.
She told the audience that “we can’t keep acting as silos in the community.” That intersectionality and building relationships is essential in her work and she encouraged everyone to “share your heart and share your thoughts.”
Kyree Allen, Lawrence University class of ‘23, who already had a standing ovation for an earlier performance of “Amazing Grace,” ended the night with an Anthony Gonzalez on guitar singing “We Shall Overcome.”