MLK Task Force calls youth to action

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published October 7, 2015

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SOUTHFIELD — In an effort to expand its outreach, the Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force is looking for some new recruits.

The MLK Task Force, made up of over 200 members, is a group dedicated to not only keeping Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of peace, freedom and equality alive, but also to organizing a celebration in his honor each January at the Southfield Pavilion.

According to President Patricia Haynie, the organization was founded in 1986 during plans for a peace walk in Southfield — which became the first city in Michigan to hold a peace walk or march in observance of King’s birthday, a national holiday. Now the walk continues to grow in size and scope each year, according to Southfield Community Relations Manager Michael Manion.

Haynie said the group is looking for some youthful associates to join the force.

“We’ve been a long-established organization in the Southfield community, and we’re always interested in new ideas and expanding our outreach. A number of our veteran members are getting older, so we wanted to bring in and reach out to some younger residents of our community,” Haynie said. “The task force is open to all ages, all ethnic groups and all religious affiliations; we believe in reflecting the diversity of our city.”

Members of the organization help to plan for the upcoming year’s King celebration, interfaith conferences, scholarship programs and youth outreach programs. Last year, hundreds gathered at the Southfield Pavilion to hear local elected officials speak and take in a performance by Aretha Franklin. The keynote speaker was Fred Gray, a friend of King’s and a civil rights attorney. 

“The more people we can get, the happier we’ll be,” Haynie said. “People normally associate us with the annual Dr. King holiday celebration in honor of his birthday, but in fact we have programs that are ongoing all year long, particularly programs designed to continue Dr. King’s legacy with our young people.”

MLK Task Force Corresponding Secretary Tracy Payne Tellis said youth wanting to get involved with the organization shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by the commitment — all they need is a desire to make a difference.

“It doesn’t have to be anything huge. It can just be something small like talking to younger kids about careers or talking about staying in school — being a mentor,” Payne Tellis said. “Young people still like to see young people. When you see older people, you think that’s your parent. We want the youth leading the youth.”

Payne Tellis also said the organization offers awards for youth community service and scholarships, awarded during the annual King celebration.

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