By Mrinal Gokhale
On the frigid day of Mon. Jan 17, almost one hundred adults and children filled the seats of the UACB Green Bay Millennium Campus school gymnasium to celebrate the 15th annual King Fest for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 87th birthday.
The celebration was held 12 pm- 5:30 pm, featuring keynote speaker JoAnn Watson and Alderwoman Milele Coggs of District 6.
Three vendors attended such as Sisters 4 Cure from Milwaukee, educating people on how the organization aims to educate black women about cancer and other diseases affecting African Americans.
African Fashions also traveled out from Chicago, displaying shea better, African soap, clothing and jewelry, along with a Chicago Amway distributor who sold health foods.
There were also youth performers including poets and praise dance groups.
Audience members threw dollars at these groups as they performed African dance, modern and praise dance.
Janette Herrera is an MPS teacher and longtime coordinator of King Fest. She emceed the event, and introduced JoAnn Watson as a pastor and host of Wake Up Detroit.
Watson spoke in the importance of Martin Luther King’s work and how others should feel inspired to act because of him.
“When he won the Nobel Peace Prize, he donated the money to the Civil Rights Movement,” she began.
“When we consider that he donated the family’s fortune, we must ask ourselves if we’re celebrating or commemorating his birthday.
Are we getting our hands dirty? Are we standing up for the hungry and homeless?”
Next, Coggs delivered her speech, stating that Milwaukee has a school, a major street and a library named after King.
She feels King Fest is a great way to bring the people of Milwaukee together to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday.
“Milwaukee’s always in the media for negative socioeconomic issues. We’re always in the top 5 for poverty, incarceration and lack of literacy among kids,” she said.
“In my district, I represent and have the power of 40,000 people. Dr. King said everyone can be great because everyone can serve.
Instead of looking for the next Martin, find the King in yourself,” she said.
After the open mic performances ended, Herrera presented the King Fest scholarships to two high school seniors: Monica Adams and Taariq Muhammed.
Adams and Muhammed each received $500, which will be used for their college education.
Herrera was very proud that both a female and male won this year, saying she has difficulty getting males to submit essays. She also explained that she feels English, math and science are important to learn as high school students.
“Teach kids how to write because without knowing how to explain what they did and how they feel, they will fail.
You also won’t get anywhere without math and science,” she said.