Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the National Cathedral on March 31, 1968 | Image from cathedral.org/
“We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” Speech given at the National Cathedral, March 31, 1968.
New years often kick off with individuals and organizations assembling plans and setting intentions. Reflecting on the length of road that has already been trod and plotting out the next leg of the journey. Inventorying those people, places, and things that inspire joy and fulfillment–that which we want to hold close as we carry on–and those people, places, and things that require careful consideration whether to hold on to a little longer or to let go. And, recommitting ourselves to our values, our responsibilities, and to each other.
The Healthy Community Partnership is not an exception to this tradition. Partners and teams have been assembling, reflecting, inventorying, and recommitting ourselves and our activities to a shared roadmap for change that will lead us closer towards becoming a healthier, more equitable community. We know what Rev. Dr. King said still resonates: that the arc of the moral universe is long, and we hope it will bend towards justice, but if and only if we do our parts to carve out a different path.
Malcom X, 1964 | Image from WikiCommons
In honor, recognition, and celebration of Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month, the first Moment of the Month of 2022 will lift up several successful community events that exemplify this year’s Black History Month theme: Black Health and Wellness. Many Partnership members participated as audience members as well as facilitators, panelists, and speakers. While these individual moments will not result in the bend towards justice that we are hoping for and so desperately need, the continued conversation, education, and inspiration will keep us focused and moving ever-forward.
“I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.” — Malcolm X
Within the first forty days of 2022, there have been several events that drew big crowds to talk about big topics, including these three:
- January 17: Annual Martin Luther King Day Community Workshop
- February 3: What is Critical Race Theory? Continuing Education Seminar
- February 4: Unmute the Uncomfortable: A Professional Development Symposium on Racial Justice, Mental Health Awareness, and Suicide Prevention
Each event presented opportunities for participants to simultaneously broaden and deepen their individual and collective knowledge of how unresolved socio-political issues, such as racism, from our past continue to impact our present and future. Taking this time to look back on the roadmap to get a better understanding of where we’ve come from will help us figure out where we should go. As Malcom X said, “if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them…they’ll create their own program…[and take] action.”
So, the big question hovering in the air related to these big events centered on addressing big challenges is how to make sure big crowds result in big impacts.
Of course, there’s not an easy, straightforward answer except that there must must be both an individual and a collective commitment to use the information shared and conversations started to create an action plan–and one that will bend the arc and bring us closer to justice. Below are brief summaries of each event with links to the video recordings so more hearts and minds can be inspired to join the movement for a healthier, more equitable, vibrant Mahoning Valley.
MLK Day Community Worship & Workshop
WHAT: MLK Community Worship & Workshop: Remembering What is Civil and Doing What is Right. Organized every year by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee, the Community Workshop is an opportunity for residents and professionals to come together to learn, grow, and act to promote Rev. Dr. King’s vision for a more just, equitable, and free community. This year’s workshop featured a keynote address delivered by Dr. Marvin McMickle and three breakout sessions: Healthcare, Youth Empowerment, and Criminal Justice.
MLK Day Community Workshop Panelists from L to R: Judge Renee DiSalvo, Dr. Marvin McMickle, Dr. Tonia Farmer-Pitts, Bryant Youngblood, Michelle Edison
WHEN: Sunday, January 16–Community Worship & Monday, January 17 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)–Community Workshop
WHO: Keynote & Worship Leader: Dr. Marvin McMickle | Worship Host: Rev. Dr. William C King, Price Memorial AME Zion Church & Invocation Rev. Kenneth Guilford; Benediction: Rev. Jim Ray | Workshop Invocation & Introductions by Rev. Jim Ray & Dr. Jacob Labendz ; Benediction: Rev. Lewis Macklin | Workshop Presenters: Health/Healthcare: Michelle Edison, Dr. Tonia Farmer-Pitts; Youth Empowerment: Bryant Youngblood; Criminal Justice: Judge Renee DiSalvo | Planning Committee Members: Pastor Kenneth Simon, Jaladah Aslam, Penny Wells | Mahoning Valley Association of Churches: Dr. Tom Sauline, Executive Director
WATCH: Community Worship | Community Workshop
What Is Critical Race Theory? Continuing Education Seminar for Professionals
WHAT: What is Critical Race Theory? Continuing Education Seminar for Professionals. Continuing Education Credits offered for lawyers and accounting professionals. Continued partnership between the Youngstown State University James Dale Ethics Center and the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley to offer continuing education opportunities that focus on exploring issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Program Description: How did an obscure academic label become a hotly contested, partisan political issue? This session will examine the controversy, explain the historical background and explore the fundamental issues at stake in this lively, interactive presentation.
WHEN: Thursday, February 3
WHO: Hosted by: Dr. Mark Vopat, Youngstown State University James Dale Ethics Center and Shari Harrell, Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley | Presenters: Dr. Brant Lee, Professor of Law and Assistant Dean for Diversity and Social Justice Initiatives at the University of Akron School of Law, Director & Attorney Marie Curry, Managing Attorney; Health Policy Advocate; Coordinator, Medical Legal Partnership at Community Legal Aid Services
WATCH: What is CRT? Seminar Recording
Unmute the Uncomfortable: A Professional Development Symposium on Racial Justice, Mental Health Awareness, and Suicide Prevention
WHAT: Unmute the Uncomfortable: A Professional Development Symposium on Racial Justice, Mental Health Awareness, and Suicide Prevention.
Program Description: The Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board in partnership with Coleman Health Services proudly presents an event to help those in our professional community become more aware of social justice issues within their fields and how to best address them. Continuing Education Unites were available for participants.
Unmute the Uncomfortable Final Panel Discussion | Photo by Jessica Romeo
WHEN: Friday, February 4
WHO: Emcees: Carol Bennett – Moderator – Assistant Provost of Diversity, YSU; Malik Mostella – Community Liaison, Youngstown Police Department | Presenters: Stacia Erdos – Coleman Health Services; Hattie Tracy – CEO, Coleman Health Services; Katie Cretella – Event Organizer and Director of Clinical Services, TCMHRB; April Caraway – Executive Director, TCMHRB; Carmella Hill – Clinical Director, Coleman Health Services Trumbull; James DeLucia – Clinical Director, Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center; Attorney Pierce Reed – Ohio Innocence Project; Laurese Glover, Lived Experience – The East Cleveland Three Case; Judge Carla Baldwin – Trauma-Informed Care in the Courtroom; Kevin Richardson, Lived Experience – Central Park/Exonerated Five Case
WATCH: Unmute the Uncomfortable Seminar Recording
From Moments to Movement
After many hours of conversation and reflection, there is hope that the many who participated in these events will be inspired to transform what they experienced into practice–to disrupt business as usual, to create or re-create systems and spaces that do more than state that they value equity and justice but practice it. In other words, to ensure these a-ha moments sustain commitments for movement towards ending oppression and truly realizing racial equity and justice. Each individual and organization have important roles to play and responsibilities to fulfill in this process.
As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so profoundly stated in Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
To do what needs to be done to move from moments to movement, a “lukewarm” or “moderate ” approach is not enough to bend the arc or keep us on a path towards justice. Strong and full commitments, regular and sustained actions, and growing diverse support is the only way forward to arrive at time and place where oppression is replaced with liberation for Black and white Americans, alike.