Gaddi Ben Dan told the crowd that gathered at the Overture Center on Monday night for the 33rd annual City-County Martin Luther King Jr. Observance that if Dr. King were still alive today, he would continue to be a strong advocate for women’s rights, fair housing, racial disparities and injustices.
“Although he is not here, he did leave us a framework that we should listen to,” Dan said. “On April 4, 1967, in a speech now entitled ‘Beyond Vietnam’ he stated: ‘We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.’”
Dan and Ali Muldrow were honored with 2018 MLK Humanitarian Awards Monday night by the City-County Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission in a night that was full of funny moments and powerful words.
County Executive Joe Parisi introduced Dan. “You know, Gaddi is one of those folks where the saying, “Still waters run deep’ comes to mind when you see him. He’s always there at so many community events and he’s an observer. Look out for those observers because it reminds me of a saying, “Those who speak, do not know; those who know, do not speak.”
Dan is the co-founder and senior executive producer of Club TNT, where he has creatively worked with young people for more than a quarter century to educate them through entertainment on their Saturday morning show. He is also the publisher of the newspapers The Westside Torch, The Chicago Chronicles, and The New York Chronicles, and the co-founder of the Wisconsin Free Press, The Madison Times, and VOICES newspaper here in Madison.
Dan said that he was very humbled and honored to receive the 2018 MLK Humanitarian award and thanked Parisi and Mayor Paul Soglin.
“I would also like to give special thanks to our team of Today Not Tomorrow-Club TNT – Betty Banks, Bill Brietsprecher and Jeanne Erickson, our collaborative partners and our numerous volunteers and supporters,” Dan says. “A person cannot do this work alone. Coretta Scott King reminded once reminded us,’The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.’”
Dan said that while speaking to a college rally in the early 1960’s, Dr. King stated: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, keep it moving.”
“I was blessed to have marched with Dr. King in 1966 for Open Housing. Through his words, formal and informal, he taught about life and how to live,” Dan added.
“There was a brother who challenged Dr. King on his non-violent philosophy,” Dan continued. “And when this man would get riled up, Dr. King would say to him, ‘Doctor, Doctor, Doctor!’ to calm him down. We would all laugh. But when Dr. King left the city it became the brother’s nickname.
“But Dr. King called all the brothers “doctor” because he was the Doctor of Love,” Dan added.
The annual City-County Martin Luther King Jr. Observance also featured beautiful performances by the MLK Community Choir and words from keynote speaker Frank Humphrey, president of the NAACP Wisconsin State Conference and former member of the NAACP National Board and Executive Committee.
Mayor Paul Soglin introduced Ali Muldrow mentioning that Madison’s poet laureate Oscar Mireles nominated her for the MLK Humanitarian Award. Muldrow is currently the director of youth programming and inclusion for the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools (GSAFE) where she has led efforts to promote strong leadership among LGBT youth and youth of color through courses and summer camps.
“I am grateful for the chance to celebrate the legacy of one of the most brilliant thinkers who ever lived,” Muldrow told the crowd. “Martin Luther King died at the age of 39, two weeks after he asked black people to boycott Coca-Cola. He was not just a man with a dream; he was a man with a plan.”
Muldrow told the crowd that she has lived in Madison for all 30 years of her life. “I love this city enough to be honest about what it means to be black and young and live here,” she said. “As a young person, I struggled to understand how Madison could be so liberal and racist enough to discriminate against children at school. It’s no coincidence that children who were once the slaves in this country are now filling up juvenile detention centers.
“It’s no coincidence that for young people in this country where it was once illegal for them to learn to read are still being left out of learning,” she added. “When I asked my father about the hypocrisy of this liberal community, my dad said, ‘Everyone is liberal when it comes to themselves. Everyone knows that slavery isn’t right for them and their children. Everyone knows that a cage isn’t the answer when they make a mistake. It is whether or not you think those things are right for other people that determines whether or not you are liberal.’”
Muldrow closed her speech by telling the crowd that what she gave was not a speech. “This is a call to action,” she said. “Don’t thank me; join me.”