If there’s a way to celebrate Martin Luther King Day and pay tribute to those who make local neighborhoods the “beloved community,” Mid-Atlantic Health Care and the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church has found it.
Together they kicked off Pennsylvania’s King week, which according to a resolution sponsored by state Sen. Shirley Kitchen, spans from Monday, Jan. 15 to Sunday, Jan. 22. The kick-off event took place at Enon’s Mount Airy campus, 2800 W. Cheltenham Ave. last Wednesday.
Philadelphia NAACP member Helen Green of Germantown felt it was important that the King celebrations include events that showcase community activism. She said her daughter, Cynthia Green of Wyncote, joined the Cheltenham NAACP recently. After being reminded of King’s legacy, she opted to join the North Philadelphia branch, which is near her own mother’s home.
“We really have to continue to keep King’s dream alive,” Green said. “I think we need to have programs like this so that our young people don’t take things for granted. We who are the elders need to come out and encourage them to participate in things like this.”
Cathy Hicks of the city’s Sheriff’s office concurred.
She said though the King Day of Service is helpful, she feels there should be more programs that directly teach about King’s legacy.
“I really want the King Day celebrations to be more like this — where we observe what he has done and then we can go and do service for the rest of the year,” she said.
Among the honorees were C. B. Kimmins, founder of Mantua Against Drugs. “It’s good to know that sometimes someone recognizes what you are doing,” Kimmens said.
For Malik Aziz, accepting the honor from his wheelchair was a proud moment. As one of the founders of Men United for a Better Philadelphia, and now executive director of Exhoodus Network, Aziz said that “10 murders every 10 days” in the city is unacceptable.
“I grew up hearing Dr. King, Malcolm X and the others talking about positive change,” Aziz said. “I tell the young men my story of what I did at 17 years of age. I want to save them from what I did. That’s why I am still working to save our children.”
The other honorees were Lillian Daniels, the Rev. Derrick Johnson and Raymond Gant. Among the guest speakers and award presenters were 13th District Congresswoman Allyson Y. Schwartz, Mayor Michael Nutter, District Attorney Seth Williams and NAACP president Jerry Mondesire. Mid-Atlantic executives Dr. Jana Mallis, Jeff Grillo, Celeste Zappala, Diane Morgan and Dan McCathrey gave remarks. Additionally, Philadelphia’s own Bill Cosby phoned in his comments during the program.
Kitchen read a Commonwealth resolution that she sponsored declaring that from Monday, Jan. 15 until Sunday, Jan. 22, was King Week in Pennsylvania.
“This is a time when Pennsylvania can respect Dr. King’s legacy, and it’s a reminder that Dr. King understood that everyone needed to respect each other,” Kitchen said.