To open up the State of Wisconsin’s 38th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Tribute & Ceremony” at the state Capitol titled “Do You Remember?” on Monday – MLK Day – host Dr. Jonathan Overby invited everybody in the Capitol building to get up, dance, and celebrate old-school style as Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” came on the sound system.
“I don’t care. I’ll do it myself!” Overby laughed, prompting the crowd to get moving.
After the song was over, Overby jokingly asked for some oxygen before he got serious with his opening remarks. “The 2018 theme poses a question: Do you remember? For those whom it applies, this is an invitation to revisit those cherished memories … those times when individuals, families, and communities – in spite of the hardships, in spite of the joblessness, in spite of the hatred, in spite of injustice – we found a way to embrace each other in the spirit of acceptance, good community, and, as Dr. King lived and taught us, in the spirit of love,” he told the crowd.
By contrast, Overby continued, even 50 years after King’s assassination, those tough times back then are oddly familiar today. “Where [we have] nasty public discourse void of any social etiquette, hatred towards those who are different, fear of the stranger, fear of those whose daily attire, costumes, language, beliefs and rituals are not like our own,” Overby said.
“We see today an overt racial divisiveness and it affirms that we as a nation may have never really overcome the disease of racism,” he added.
“No matter how hopeless things may seem, our lives are filled with chances to love each other,” Overby continued. “A love that can be extended with a handshake, a hug, a hello, and, above all, the ability to listen to each other and to embrace each other – even if we don’t always agree. So, today, let us love. Let us celebrate each other. Let us remember the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.”
Overby announced that members of the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin – where a mass shooting took place by a white supremacist in August of 2012 – were by his side. The Tribute & Ceremony featured performances by the Victory Travelers from Chicago, Leotha Stanley & 1 A CHORD, the Milwaukee Children’s Choir, and singing sensation Elijah Edwards, a seventh-grader from Glacier Creek Middle School.
The 100 Black Men of Madison were honored with the 2018 MLK Heritage Award. The 100 Black Men of Madison are a local organization committed to the intellectual development of youth and the economic empowerment of the African-American community based on the following precepts: respect for family, spirituality, justice, and integrity. Dr. Floyd Rose, president of the 100 Black Men of Madison, accepted the award.
“We are indeed humbled by the bestowal of this recognition,” Rose told the crowd. “Today. we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who’s leadership reshaped our country’s consciousness and whose legacy challenges all to pursue justice, equality, and peace. Hopefully, this gathering will inspire us to rededicate our actions to achieve those ideals.”
Muhibb Dyer, co-founder of Flood the Hood with Dreams and the I Will Not Die Young campaign, energized the crowd with a passionate keynote speech at the event. Dyer, a Milwaukee native, said that about 13 years ago he went around to schools and asked kids what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“All of the kids would all give us the politically correct answer and say, ‘I want to be a doctor. I want to be a lawyer. I want to be a businessman, a businesswoman. I want to own a Fortune 500 company. I want to rule the world,'” Dyer said.
There would be a young man in the back room not really paying attention and Dyers would ask him: “Young man, what do you want to be when you grow up?” The young man would repeatedly wave Dyers off before answering, according to Dyeres: “Don’t come around here talking about no dream! Because where I come from, we don’t make it past the age of 21. Where I come from, I was walking down the street and I saw my friend get shot in the head and my mother told me we better not tell. Where I come from, we ain’t seen our daddies one day in our life.”
With that in mind, Dyer started to call his organization “Flood The Hood with Dreams.”
“Because we believe that all of God’s children, even children who come from the streets of Milwaukee, the so-called throw-away children of the state – they deserve a dream, too,” he told the crowd
“If Dr. King was here today, he may say, ‘How can you really say that you remember me when the reason why God created me in the first place was for the poor, was for the oppressed, for the victimized? Never say you remember me unless you remember them,'” Dyer added.
“You see, it’s easy to celebrate the life of a dead man. It’s much more difficult to live by the principals he espoused.”