Grosse Pointe celebrates the 50th anniversary of Civil Rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s speech


Brooklyn Northcross

Robert Bury speaks at the MLK commemoration event that took place on March 14.

Brooklyn Northcross, Staff Writer

Known for his encouraging, inspirational speeches during the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. gave a heartening speech at Grosse Pointe High in 1968. 50 years later, the school celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of this uplifting speech on Wednesday, March 14.

The event consisted of video interviews of attendees at Dr. King’s original speech, a live reading of Dr. King’s speech by students and community members, a video montage of student work and the announcement of the competition winners.

According to Izzy Donnelly, the Director of Education at the Grosse Pointe Historical Society, this event was organized by a variety of members in the Grosse Pointe Community including representatives from the Detroit Historical Society, the Grosse Pointe Historical Society, the Grosse Pointe Board of Realtors, the Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education and the GPPSS PTOs.

“First there was a nice welcome by the principal, Moussa Hamka,” Donnelly said. “Then they had a great introduction by Robert Bury, the Executive Director and CEO of Detroit Historical Society.”

According to Donnelly, the event had numerous speakers, all speaking on the importance of this commemoration.

“The principal came up first, and they had a beautiful video of people who were there the night of Martin Luther King’s real speech in 1968,” Donnelly said. “They talked deeply about their reaction to the heckling, the riots and everything that went on.”

After the video interviews, Dr. King’s speech was read by 15 different community members. Demetrius Ford ’18 was chosen to be one of the presenters and delivered a portion of the speech.

“It was split it up into several portions so that there would be many diverse representatives to read,” Ford said. “The ending was very special because it was presented by the original recording of Dr. King himself delivering his speech in 1968.”

Ford said he was very honored to be chosen to deliver a part of the speech.

“Martin Luther King was such an inspirational, influential character, both in the past and present,” Ford said. “It would be unwise to not give him the credit that he is due. It’s important to see his notions of peace and humbless that is still required to be practiced today.”

Dr. King’s speech was titled ‘The Other America.’ Ford said he really reflected on the content of the speech.

“There is still another America because we still see these racial divides in our country, these economic divides, these social divides,” Ford said. “Not only between the white and black communities, but between people who are of high and low classes too.”

Donnelly said she was 12 years old attending St. Paul when Dr. King came to South and gave his speech.

“He was killed three weeks later,” Donnelly said. “It was a pivotal time in history. With all the riots, the world was on fire.”

The tribute to Martin Luther King was accompanied by a contest open to submissions of any medium. At the end of the event, the winners were announced. They will be awarded with monetary prizes in the next few weeks. The first place winner and recipient of 1,000 dollars was Soleil Garcia-Johnson ’20.

“I entered this competition because I feel like diversity is sometimes an issue in Grosse Pointe,” Garcia-Johnson said. “Equality is something I’m really passionate about and I felt that this would be a great outlet to express my beliefs.”

According to Garcia-Johnson, she was very surprised when she found out the poem she entered into the competition won first place.

“Since the prompt was: ‘Is there Another America,’ I did a twist on that,” Garcia-Johnson said. “My argument was that there are millions of Americas, because each person embodies a piece of this country and they all go through their own struggles.”

Garcia-Johnson said she is happy she decided to participate in the competition.

“I think it’s important because a lot of what Dr. King said in his speech 50 years ago is still very relevant today,” Garcia-Johnson said. “I think it’s important not to forget about these things and keep working on them.”

Being in the same gym Dr. King was in 50 years ago allowed people to connect and relate to the issues even more, she said.

“I feel the main message (of Dr. King’s speech) was there is a lot of inequality in the world and people aren’t treated equally,” Garcia-Johnson said. “The way to get over racism in this country is to recognize it. Until people start to recognize that racism is very real, then it will never be solved.”

According to Donnelly, the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s speech was essential to honor and celebrate in order to move on in a better world.

“He was a peaceful man looking for nonviolence and he was murdered,” Donnelly said. “It was devastating and if we don’t look at the past, we are doomed to repeat it.”