Message from Martin Luther King's daughter connects with Aurora women
Message from Martin Luther King's daughter resonates
Donnell Collins Photography / Handout
Bernice King, shown here with books about her late father Martin Luther King, was keynote speaker at the recent YWCA Aurora Leaders of Change Luncheon.
Bernice King, shown here with books about her late father Martin Luther King, was keynote speaker at the recent YWCA Aurora Leaders of Change Luncheon. (Donnell Collins Photography / Handout)
I think I've finally found the person I'd like to vote for as president of these Divisive and Conflicted United States of America.
And she – that's right, SHE – was right within my grasp. So close I could have reached out and touched her had I been so bold.
Unfortunately, Bernice King, youngest daughter of the late Martin Luther King Jr., is not running for the highest office in the land. And of course it takes much more than an electrifying speech – presented at Monday's YWCA Leaders of Change Luncheon – to lead our country in these Divisive and Conflicted Times.
But gosh, did her message connect.
Judging by the reaction from the over 400 people who gathered at Pipers Banquet for this event – that included two standing ovations, multiple rounds of applause and a throng that encircled her later – I was not the only one who came away impressed.
To quote or paraphrase King's words would do no justice to the message she delivered in a soaring oration that mirrored the eloquence of her father, who was murdered when she was only 5 years old.
Her theme was universal, but also spot-on in this Aurora setting as it matched the YWCA's mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.
Speech from Martin Luther King's daughter resonates
Donnell Collins Photography / Handout
Members of West Aurora's Gospel Choir performed at the recent YWCA Aurora Leaders of Change Luncheon.
Members of West Aurora's Gospel Choir performed at the recent YWCA Aurora Leaders of Change Luncheon. (Donnell Collins Photography / Handout)
King's challenge to every woman in the room was to "keep our conscience front and center" as we embrace a mission in life that "will answer a question or solve a problem."
YWCA Aurora seems intent on doing just that.
At the luncheon, Executive Director Melissa Nigro talked about the importance of the YWCA creating collaborative partnerships with all organizations in Aurora. So far, those groups include Fox Valley United Way, Mutual Ground, Breaking Free and Aurora Cares.
Members are also working with state legislators, city of Aurora officials and the Human Relations Commission, she said, in its effort to promote equality for all.
Two programs specifically mentioned were the Bullying Prevention Peace Program, which has reached over 1,100 local elementary school children in its four years in existence, as well as the YWCA's Community Dialogues, which is similar to the former Study Circles program that provides a safe environment for people to discuss race and how they have been shaped by it.
Over the next year, YWCA Aurora plans to work with participants of that program to implement action plans.
"I invite you to join these necessary conversations," Nigro said. "We need to hear your voice, your experiences and your thoughts so that we can make a positive impact in our community."
No doubt those were the sort of missions King spoke of when she declared that women "must be the soul of the community."
"As we think about the times we live in and think of our nation and consider the world we live in, I see some very disturbing issues and problems," she said. "I am not disturbed. I am hopeful. We know how to correct and solve them."
King, an attorney, author and CEO of The King Center, told the mostly female members of the audience they need to make their presence known … in Congress, Hollywood, our educational and health care systems, corporations, churches, civic and community groups, as well as our homes.
"We can make a tremendous difference in the tone, tenor and temperature of our world," she said.
Unfortunately, too many suffer from what King called ADD, approval deficit disorder. And because we want to be liked and included "we muzzle our voices and let things happen."
While men often get the credit, King said the real strength of the Civil Rights Movement came from women.
We have "an obligation" to speak up, said King, using one of her father's more famous quotes to drive home that point.
It's a quote that has hardly lost its potency as our country becomes more ensnared in divisiveness and conflict.
"Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about things that matter."
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