Educate, Advocate, Participate

Thursday, January 19, 2017

MLK17

From left to right: Dr. Bola Delano-Oriaran, Caroline Basehoar, Eli Skrypczak, Kala Lones, and Milly Figueroa.

Contributor: Nanci Micke, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at United Way Fox Cities

It may be joining hands in an audience that fills Lawrence Chapel and singing all the verses of “We Shall Overcome”; or the wonder of our youth reading essays that come from the depths of their hearts; or having the opportunity to hear a message from a speaker like renowned columnist Leonard Pitts, but each year the Fox Cities’ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration is a moving and inspirational event.

This past January 16 was no different. Despite icy road conditions, a full crowd gathered at Lawrence Chapel to be a part of this annual celebration. We sometimes use the word “community” loosely. Coming together to celebrate on this night truly feels like community to me. Three words from Mr. Pitts’ keynote have stayed with me – Educate, Advocate, and Participate. Although he gave credit for grouping these words together to his local minister, they do give us a plan for how we can live our lives to make things better.

And, on a night when we heard from four Fox Cities’ students about how they see our community, we all need to take Educate, Advocate, and Participate to heart. Three of the essay winners had personal stories to share. Stories that made me sad that they are happening is this community that I love.

Eli Skrypczak told of his best friend, a boy who had emigrated from Iran and is Muslim, being harassed by an older student. Kala Lones, a ninth grader from Appleton North, started her essay with the words, “I have experienced racism since the day I was born.” Milly Figueroa said, “I find it hard to remain strong and combat racism when kids say, 'It was nice knowing you, have fun being deported.'” But, she also has a plan, “I will encourage my Latino community to unite and stand together against the bullies of the world who create injustices based on racial discrimination. By furthering our education, and fostering our talents, we will be examples of how race has nothing to do with success.”

And from third grader, Caroline Basehoar, advice that we can all emulate, “These are the three things I will do to stop racism…treat all people the same no matter what their skin color is, play with everyone, and care for everyone.” Such wisdom from one so young.

The 2017 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration was sponsored in part by United Way Fox Cities.