Shared services Martin Luther King Jr. celebration focuses on ‘community dreams’
by Kathryn Holleman
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration held at the BJC Learning Institute Jan. 20 was about the power of focusing your dreams on the community and featured a ground-shaking demonstration of the results of doing that.
BJC shared services employees gathered at 8:30 a.m. in the lower level of the BJC Learning Institute to celebrate King’s life and legacy.
June Fowler, BJC senior vice president for communications, marketing and public affairs — in front of a slide of the King quote, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” — introduced a video highlighting BJC initiatives, charity care and partnerships in the community.
After the video, BJC CEO Rich Liekweg shared that he had received the Dr. King quote in a text earlier in the morning from his best friend. Liekweg had attended a service over the weekend for his best friend’s father, who had died after a “long, wonderful life.”
Seeing the quote again at the celebration was meaningful, he said. “That happened for a reason.”
In front of a slide bearing another, lesser-known King quote: “… at the heart of all that civilization has meant and developed is community,” Fowler noted that in just nine years, we’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of King’s birth.
She then shared a short letter she had written. The letter, she said, came “not from a Birmingham jail, but from the warmth of my very comfortable living room sofa that I recognize I have the privilege of enjoying, thanks in part to the work of Dr. King and those like him who fought for me.”
The letter recounted advice from her grandmother, “… when you know better, you do better.” Fowler called for putting others at the center of our dreams. “Especially those whose life circumstances keep them from believing in dreams or even hope. We don’t have to look far to find a place to start. But we do have to decide individually and collectively that the current reality for many of our communities, not too far from where we are sitting, is unacceptable.”
BJC has said “no more” to the spate of children killed by violence in 2019 and is developing actions focused on making “no more” a reality, she said. While the organization doesn’t have all the answers, its leaders know that working to provide health care, education and employment, and partnering with others to fulfill basic needs is a start. “When you are hungry, you dream of food and when you are homeless, you dream of shelter and when you are sick, you dream of being well. And, unfortunately, when all around you seems hopeless, sometimes you make really, really awful choices.”
Fowler’s dream, she said, is that if “we all commit and act, I truly believe that by Dr. King’s 100th birthday celebration in 2029, our community will be better.” (Read Fowler’s entire letter.)
The program continued with a tsunami of a performance by the Gentlemen of Vision (G.O.V.) and Young Men of Vision (Y.M.O.V) step team that brought the room cheering to its feet. Team members demonstrated the timing and precision stepping that’s earned them 16 national championships and a mountain of local and regional titles.
The group served as a concrete example of the success that results when focusing your dreams on the community. More than a step team, G.O.V was founded at Riverview Gardens High School as a way to address the climbing high school drop-out rate among disadvantaged male high school students. Along with the step training, practice and competition, G.O.V. provides counseling, academics, mentoring and programming for students from across the area. (Y.M.O.V. is for male middle school students.)
And the results — even more impressive than the championships — are a 100% high school graduation rate and 100% college or university acceptance or post-secondary technical/vocational training placement rates.
After a “diversity bead” exercise that gave attendees a visual representation of the diversity in their lives, the program ended with attendees watching a video of King’s historic speech in 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial — “I Have a Dream.”
Christian Hospital’s Detrick Building Atrium was filled to capacity Jan. 17 as CH president Rick Stevens and the CH Foundation hosted the third annual “Embracing the Dream” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Luncheon, where nine high school students and one community college nursing student were awarded scholarships, and four individuals and one organization were honored with the Drum Major for Service Award.
Nearly 400 people attended the celebration of inspiration, hope and healing. Presenting sponsor was Centene Charitable Foundation, and Inspiration Partner sponsors were Christ the King United Church of Christ and St. Louis Community College Foundation.
The Hon. Michael Battle, D.Min., was the keynote speaker; and Evangelist Mary Tillman, "Your" Radio Angel 95.5 FM, served as mistress of ceremonies.
Scholarships were awarded at the celebration to the following students, who were selected by their school districts:
Taylor Allen, Normandy Schools Collaborative
Jasmine Bibby, Lutheran High School North
Kennady Carter, Hazelwood School District
Fatouma Sam, Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School
Jayden Keys, Riverview Gardens School District
Erynn McLemore Incarnate Word Academy
Joe Oliverires, Trinity Catholic High School
Serenatee Simpson, Jennings School District
Kenila Webb, Ferguson-Florissant School District
Ronnesha “Ronne” Smith, St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley
The Drum Major for Service Awards were presented at the celebration to honor the following unsung individuals who have given their time, talents and treasure in service of justice and equality:
Lynn Beckwith Jr. EdD, Riverview Gardens School District special administrative board chair and Saint Louis County Library board of trustees president
Rosemary Hanley, The Little Bit Foundation chief executive officer and co-founder
The Hon. Rev. Tommie Pierson Sr., Bellefontaine Neighbors mayor, Greater St. Mark Family Church pastor and former state representative
The Hon. Betty Thompson former state representative and civil rights activist
The Empowerment Network, resource center for patients and families affected by prostate cancer
The award is inspired by the following words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. describing what he called the “Drum Major Instinct” in a sermon over half a century ago to the congregation in Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church: “If you want to say I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness … We all have the drum major instinct.”
The CH Foundation raises and allocates funds to support efforts such as patient care, advancing medicine and technology, community benefit programs, community health access, staff education and new hospital facilities and equipment.
This year's Martin Luther King Day celebration on the Washington University Medical Campus was marked by performances by two students and an address by Pamela Meanes, an attorney and partner with Thompson Coburn. Meanes highlighted the negative consequences of health disparities that have affected people of color, both historically and today.
Missouri Baptist Medical Center’s Bridges diversity council celebrated the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy, Jan. 20, with select speeches and memories from Rev. Dr. King played on televisions throughout the hospital. Employees also were invited to enjoy cupcakes and a small giveaway on both the day shift and the night shift.
“While we formally celebrate the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once a year, we each have the opportunity and responsibility to live out his message of light over darkness and love over hatred each and every day,” said John Antes, MBMC president. “I call upon all of us to use the opportunity with which we have been blessed to bring light and love to those we serve.”