This weekend I went to two of the MLK Day events I linked to previously. On Sunday the Media Area NAACP and Media Fellowship House hosted their event in Media. There was music and several speeches with Media Fellowship House Board President James Mason and Media Area NAACP President Cynthia Ann Jetter presiding with NAACP Media Youth Council President Bianca Blake.
There was a touching remembrance of Pastor Warren Mays by his family and a welcome by the Media mayor. The focus of the event was the presentation of the 2023 Spirit Award Honorees, a program that the Media Fellowship House has been doing for several years now to recognize members of the community.
The first recognized were Akeiff Staples and Brent Johnstone who founded FathersRead365, a non-profit focused on early childhood literacy efforts. The website for FathersRead365 can be found here. They spoke about their efforts starting this effort and the importance of finding something you’re driven to do and just do it. They also spoke about the importance of black male role models. The blurb I got in print at the event says a movie, “Reading is Love” about their efforts will come out later this year.
The other honoree was Kadida Kenner of the New Pennsylvania Project, who also gave the keynote address. Ms. Kenner and her organization seem ubiquitous, I run into their work regularly. They promote voting and have launched voter registration drives to register tens of thousands of new voters. Ms. Kenner noted that few high school students eligible to vote are registered and I have seen her organization working on registrations at high schools and colleges in the area to try to tackle that problem. In one of the remarks (I can’t recall whose), it was noted that one of the constitutional amendments proposed in PA would raise the voting age to disenfranchise these young adults.
After that, many of our local officials spoke, including PA-5 Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon of Swarthmore, state Rep. Leanne Krueger from Nether Providence and Media’s Joi Washington. Many of the speakers echoed Ms. Kenner’s remarks about the importance of voting and warned of the efforts underway in Pennsylvania now to restrict voting and impose new barriers. I saw WSSD school board member Nannette Whitsett and Council Councilor Christine Reuther there, but didn’t catch any other NP elected officials in the audience.
On Monday there was an event at SHMS organized by the school district. School Superintendent Dr. Wagner Marseille and school senior Anjali Robinson-Leary presided over a variety of performances and remarks. School board president Kelly Wachtman gave an impromptu introduction and then state Sen. Kearney and Rep. Krueger spoke (in both her speeches, Rep. Krueger cited King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail“) followed by a series of performances by students overseen by a host of school teachers and administrators. I saw stage manager (and NPE Principal) Al Heine and others running all over wrangling students. The silver tones gave a musical performance followed by an address by Mr. Chad Lassiter, the executive director of Pennsylvania’s Human Right’s Commission with a general theme of truth, love and
compassion kindness. Students from all the schools together read MLK’s “I Have a Dream Speech“. A video was shown of NPE students reciting a poem (with included artwork). WES’s students recited a story called “The Crayon Box”, SHMS students performed a dance routine and a high school student (Supraja Sudarsan) gave a speech about the limits of empathy. The performances concluded with SRS students singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.
The performances ended a little late with a certificate for Superintendent Marseille in recognition of his efforts to create this event. People were in a hurry to get to their service projects though. On the way, there was a living wax museum in the library with students bringing historical figures to life. In the gym things were abuzz with a variety of service projects for families (and food, the food seemed popular with children). Clearly this event was a massive effort by administrators, teachers, students and parents and seemed well attended with the auditorium mostly full. Being the first one there were a few rough edges, but it sounded like there will be efforts to make this a recurring event in coming years.
There was a contrast between the two events. The event in Media was largely a collection of people already engaged in the work that MLK called for. I saw faces of people I see doing voter registration, showing up for protests, commenting at public forums, serving on boards and knocking on doors. Whereas by including children, their parents and grandparents, the event at the middle school was one that reached a much broader audience. So two different audiences, two different events, and both celebrating MLK.
Update 17 Jan – the Delco Times also covered the WSSD event.