Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Maltz Museum
Monday, January 18th, was Martin Luther King Day so we went to the Maltz Museum to attend their celebration which was "presented with support from the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland."
Because of the cold weather, we didn't expect to see that many people there so we were pleasantly surprised to see a full parking lot. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Mr. Jeffrey Allen, Education and Public Programs Director for the Maltz Museum and Mr. David Shaffer, its Director of Development. Mr. Shaffer asked us to convey to Ms. Margaret W. Wong his appreciation for her service on the host committee for the 2016 Heritage Award Gala which will take place in May.
On this day there were several good things going on at the museum. Our observation was that many grandparents brought their grandchildren to this gathering so the children were given the opportunity to create "I Have a Dream Too!" pictures for a community banner regarding what their dreams were for society and for themselves.
In the Irving Chelm Family Theater there was a continuous screening of news footage of Dr. King giving his "I Have a Dream Speech" in August of 1963.
In the early afternoon, we had a real treat when four artists from "Roots of American Music" did a concert for us of songs important to the civil rights movement like "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and songs made famous by people who actively fought discrimination like Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, and Ray Charles. Ms. Evelyn Wright, who sang beautifully, and Mr. Joe Hunter, master of the keyboard, talked about what was going at the time that inspired the creation of the songs. We learned that Ms. Wright's parents took part in the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. Later, there was a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Alex Johnson, President of Cuyahoga Community College, featuring Mr. Albert Ratner of Forest City Enterprises, Rev. Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin of the Olivet Baptist Church, and Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, Director of Religion at the Chautauqua Institute. Each of the panelists shared their experiences with the civil rights movements along with how the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had touched their lives.
Dr. Campbell talked about how difficult it often was for a white middle-class person such as herself to be involved back then because she often had to endure unkind treatment by other white people who felt increasingly threatened. Nevertheless, she persevered and got to know Dr. King, himself, and made many new friends she otherwise wouldn't have made and was very glad that she took part because it helped her to become the person that she is today.
Dr. Colvin was a small child when Dr. King was assassinated but he considered himself to be a beneficiary of the civil rights movement from in terms of housing, education, and social experience.
Mr. Ratner had a lot to say about they civil rights movement's impact on the Cleveland and the role that Mayor Carl Stokes and U.S. Congressman Louis Stokes played. He also told a particularly harrowing story about being in the U.S. Army in the late 1940's when it was integrated by President Truman's executive order.
During the Q and A, we asked the panel if they believed that the importance of providing needed services for immigrants (along with immigration reform) could spark a new movement. Mr. Ratner took the question and cited solid statistics about U.S. population growth and the declining number of workers. He suggested that we go to Jobs Ohio and note the number of jobs that are out there but people simply do not have the skills and education to fill them. Therefore, he believed that we should welcome all as long as we educated and trained them properly, and the newcomers were willing to take advantage of this opportunity.