Her favourite Martin Luther King Jr. quote is: “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”
As one of the presenters at the Federation of Adventist Youth’s 12th annual celebration to mark Dr. King’s birthday last Saturday, youth advocate Britanny-Anne Dawes used the quote to inspire and encourage young people in the Greater Toronto Area.
“When attending an interview, the way we dress and the way we speak are very vital in determining if we are successful in obtaining the position we apply for,” said Dawes, who is also an account and office manager at Moxie’s Classic Grill. “Speaking properly without the use of slang and wearing appropriate attire are steps in the right direction. They enhance your image and make it less difficult for you not to be a successful candidate for the job. Just showing up for the interview is simply not enough. Do these things instead of blaming rejection on the colour of your skin.”
The Westhill Collegiate graduate and aspiring lawyer reminded the youth in the audience that their ancestors fought hard for the freedom they now enjoy and which many take for granted.
“Too many of our young men are in gangs and walking around with their pants hanging down and our young women think they are nothing more than their hips and thighs and are proud of giving birth at a tender age,” she said. “This is not what our ancestors fought for and they would not be proud of us.”
Ontario Minister of Health Promotion & Sport Margarett Best represented the provincial government at this year’s event the theme of which was “Own the Dream, Preserve the Heritage.”
She said that it’s because of King’s dream that she’s a member of the provincial cabinet. She also read a message sent by McGuinty.
“This event celebrating Dr. King’s exceptional legacy and his important achievements is essential to keeping his dream alive,” said McGuinty. “This evening, we are reminded that it’s the responsibility of all citizens to stand united against racism and intolerance and to continue to build a caring society where all Ontarians can reach their full potential and be part of a strong and inclusive society.”
Jamaica’s Consul General George Ramocan, York Region Police Service Chief Eric Jolliffe, Toronto Police Service Staff Inspector Dave McLeod and Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE) first vice-president Chris Bullen attended the celebration which attracts mainly young people.
“As we consider the life of Rev. King, we can’t help but recognize that his life was one of service and sacrifice and if we are going to pass that on, we need to encourage our young people to continue to study his life, his work and his ministry,” said Ontario Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Youth & Campus Ministries director Rev. Cyril Millett.
“It’s important that we recognize those young people who bare their hearts and souls on this platform, sharing from the depths of their being their music and the message that is truly a legacy to Dr. King. Strive hard, keep shooting for the stars and dream big. I believe that God will honour your efforts and you will be blessed.”
The annual Martin Luther King celebration featured interpretative dance, spoken word, poetic lyrics, dramatic expressions, reflections, instrumentals and other special presentations.
The performers included Conroy Stewart, Elaine Gallego, Norwill Simmonds, Vince Alexander, Sharon Riley & Faith Chorale, The Chitans, Kendalwood Children’s Choir, Rashaan Allwood’s Trio, the Campbell Sisters, Jade’s Hip Hop Academy, DHC-MLK Litaneers, The Children & Youth Dance Theatre, Hands of Blessings and the Rexdale Outreach Choir which also accompanied Grammy-award winning songwriter/producer Ashley Ingram.
“This choir has done so much for me,” said Ingram. “The vibes and soul in this choir make me what you see best. It’s because of this choir that I wrote this song (Rise Up, Stand Up). When I saw those faces, the words came like that.”
Former Ontario Provincial Police officer Rev. Wendell Brereton and Pastor Lance Constantine also shared their reflections.
One of the highlights of the celebrations in the United States to mark King’s birthday was the Martin Luther King Day of Service that was started by former Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wofford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis, who co-authored the King Holiday and Service Act.
The federal legislation challenges Americans to transform the King Holiday into a day of citizen volunteer service in King’s honour. The legislation was signed into law by former president Bill Clinton on August 23, 1994. Since 1996, the annual Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service has been the largest event in the U.S. honouring the former Civil Rights leader.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 1929, King inspired, encouraged and empowered people from diverse backgrounds, races, religions and creeds to achieve greater racial equality, opportunities and justice. He also challenged them to use peaceful and non-violent methods to focus on and attain civil rights.
King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 while in Memphis to support sanitary workers and their boycott against companies with unfair hiring practices.
The U.S. national holiday commemorating King’s birthday was enacted in 1993.