MLK Jr. Regional Celebration returns to in-person event

The Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Celebration was held in the Malcolm Field Theatre on Wednesday, Jan. 18.

Celebrating it’s 14th year, the annual celebration is a collaboration between Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU), Delta College, and the Bay Area, Midland Area and Saginaw community foundations.

The event returned to a fully in-person format following the 2021 and 2022 celebrations being held virtually due to COVID.

Former South Carolina representative Bakari Sellers was the keynote speaker at the event. Sellers became the youngest member of the South Carolina legislature in 2006 at the age of 22.

Beyond his eight years spent in legislature, Sellers is a practicing attorney, a CNN political analyst and most recently a published author. Sellers released his memoir ‘My Vanishing Country’ in 2020 which details his coming of age in Denmark, South Carolina.

Shortly after, Sellers also published a picture book called ‘Who Are Your People?’.

Sellers participated in a fireside chat moderated by John Kaczynski, the executive director of governmental and community affairs for Saginaw Valley State University.

Past years’ keynote speakers have included former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, political contributor Van Jones and former senior advisor to the president Valerie Jarrett.

The celebration also honored the eighth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major for Community Service Award recipients.

The award seeks to recognize community members who go above and beyond to exemplify Dr. King’s vision.

This year, Smallwood Holoman Jr. of Midland, Pastor Phillip Johnson of Bay City and Angelia Williams of Saginaw each received a $1,000 reward to be given to the charity of their choosing.

Holoman is a retired scientist and director for Dow whose community involvement has been widespread and varied. Some of the many organizations Holoman has helped include Great Lakes Bay Boys & Girls Club, Saginaw County Youth Protection Council, Michigan 4H Foundation and Midland County Council on Aging.

Johnson is the lead pastor at Apostolic Life Church in Bay City where he works to reach under served demographics in the community.

Johnson has also served as the chaplain for Bay City’s police force and fire department since being appointed in 2019.

Williams is the senior vice president of Great Lakes Bay Health Centers. Beyond a healthcare career spanning 41 years, Williams is also a member of the NAACP, the National Black Nurses Association and the National School Based Health Alliance.

Recipients of the regional scholarship awards given by the Bay Area, Midland Area and Saginaw community foundations were also recognized at the celebration.

The 15 local high school seniors were each chosen to receive scholarships for embodying the vision of Dr. King who they honored by reading “The Negro and the American Dream”, an excerpt from a speech given by King on Sept. 25, 1960.

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