Community to gather in honor of MLK’s legacy

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published January 11, 2012


The Troy Community will come together to pause and reflect on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and how his words are relevant today.

The city of Troy and the Troy School District have organized the event for the last 13 years.

Padma Kuppa, outreach chair from the Bharatiya Temple and one of the founding members of the Troy Interfaith Group, will lead the Unity Walk with Troy School District students around Athens High School to kick off the event.

Kuppa said she’s always taken part in the MLK event with her children. She will share her thoughts and introduce the keynote speaker, Ray Johnson, a noted education consultant.

She said she accepted the invitation to participate because she thought it would be a good opportunity to share thoughts about why people need to continue to value what King did.

She said the theme of her speech is the common ground that Mahatma Gandhi, who worked for social justice in her native India, shared with King, and the need for activism as a means to find peace in the community.

Johnson has worked with school districts across the country to bolster student achievement, helped to develop multicultural and African-centered curriculums, and founded the Man-to-Man and Sisters Empowered through Love and Friendship mentoring programs that target students ages 4 through 21.

He spoke at the funeral of civil rights activist Rosa Parks and at events honoring King at Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and in the city of Boston, said organizer Cindy Stewart, director of community affairs for the city of Troy.

“We’re always looking for recommendations for keynote speakers,” she said.

Stewart said two members of the Troy School District Diversity and Inclusion Committee heard Johnson speak at an educational conference and recommended him for the Troy MLK event.

The event will also feature musical performances by the Troy honors choir, which consists of Troy School District students in grades five through eight. A dance performance will be sponsored by the Troy School District African American Parent Network, and a student art exhibit will be displayed. Middle school and high school essay contest winners will be recognized for their work on the theme of what influence King’s legacy has had on them.

“We received hundreds of essays,” Stewart said. She noted that the students’ efforts demonstrated in the essays were “amazing.”

The event will feature a continental breakfast by Sodexo Food Service.

Sponsors include Alliance Mobile Health, the Troy Community Coalition, the Troy Foundation for Educational Excellence, Walsh College, Sodexo Food Service, Troy Interfaith Group, Community Bowling Centers – Troy Lanes and Bowl One, and WOW Internet Cable Phone.

The event will be held at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 16 at Athens High School, 4333 John R. There is no charge to attend, but donations to offset the cost of next year’s event will be accepted.