Royal Oak, Berkley schools join lawmakers to honor King as 'force for good'

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

The cities and school districts of Royal Oak and Berkley held a joint event Monday for the communities to remember, participate and honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

The virtual event, streamed on the Facebook pages of both school districts, featured speeches by school officials as well as local, state and congressional leaders, many choosing to use King's own words to carry the message.

Participants on a frigid Monday join the MLK freedom walk in Royal Oak, Michigan, on January 17, 2022.

"Dr. King was an important force for good in this world and he taught all of us so much about social justice, about building a beloved community, about fighting for peace and justice for all," U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, said in prerecorded remarks. "His message on race and economic justice is just as important today as when he was murdered in 1968 ... it's important to fight for racial and economic justice every day. Let's all do what we can to make our world more just for all people."

Monday was the fifth year for the event, which also included a memorial freedom walk that led off from Royal Oak Middle School and the collection of donations for four area charities as part of a day of service in King’s memory.

The event, “A Day On, Not Day Off," included a keynote address by Dr. Kim Martin, diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator for Royal Oak Schools. 

“Given the days and times we live in, it is more important than ever to remember what Dr. King stood for and how so much of what he started remains to be done," she said.

Adults, from left, Donna Sternicki, Rami Garrett and Emily Kaczander take their children to the Martin Luther King, Jr. freedom walk that started at Royal Oak Middle School in Royal Oak, Michigan on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.

If King had lived, she noted, he would have been 92 years old this weekend.

"King said that anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider," Martin said. "This sentiment is crucial for times like this where in the country currently we have vilified each other, we have treated each other like outsiders."

The 30-minute program featured two stirring recorded presentations by the Detroit Youth Choir. Other messages were shared from Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier, Berkley Mayor Daniel Terbrack and the superintendents of both districts. 

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson noted that King was often slandered for his "progressive and radical views" while he fought for justice, civil rights and voting rights.

"He responded by saying that the time is always right to do what is right," she said. "Today I hope that we all take a cue from Dr. King and recognize that now is another time to do what is right.

"Now, amidst a national coordinated attack on our democracy, we must stand up, organize, speak the truth and vote," Benson added. "We must exercise the rights Dr. King made possible."

Terbrack, in his remarks, quoted from King’s speech on “The Other America” that focused on the have and have-nots of society, and Fournier stressed King's message is "universal and everlasting."

"We look to him and other civil rights leaders to see what needs to be done to pursue justice ourselves," he said. 

Suggested donation items being accepted Monday include toiletries and cleaning supplies, diapers, non-perishable foods, including canned meats and fish, and laundry detergent.

The selected charities to receive those donations are the Redford Brightmoor Initiative, Cass Community Social Services, Judson Center and Gleaners Community Food Bank.

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