The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission of Mid-Michigan received $147,000 in donations at a check presentation Friday. The donations will help the commission continue to provide scholarships to students, host an annual luncheon and work to support equality, diversity and social justice.
Elaine Hardy, chair of the commission, said the donations and support from the community will help fund the many things the commission does.
"The support that we receive from our donors helps us to host our signature event, our annual luncheon — which happens to be the largest luncheon event in the nation honoring Dr. King," Hardy said. "It helps us to provide scholarships and essay awards to graduating high school seniors ... It helps us to further promote the legacy of Dr. King by hosting town-halls and providing spaces for people to talk about race."
Hardy said the week leading up to MLK Day and the commission's luncheon is a time of "reflection," but that the remembrance and recognition of King should be extended beyond just one day.
"How we honor Dr. King's legacy is that we just do it every day. We don't make a one-day celebration of it, but we honor Dr. King by promoting his ideas of justice, inclusion and equity for everyone," she said.
There's still a lot to do in society when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion, which is why the commission's work is important, Hardy said.
"When (King) stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and declared that he had a dream about his children one day being judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin, that was not the reality in this country," she said. "There were still barriers that you could tangibly see. Now, we have to break those barriers that we cannot see."
Continuing the legacy of MLK is "vitally important" to the community, said Kelli Ellsworth-Etchison, a member and diversity partner of the commission.
"I am the first African-American chief marketing officer at LAFCU. I am the first African-American female that chaired the YMCA board," Ellsworth-Etchison said. "I'm saying that to say, while we have done a lot — while Dr. King's legacy has done a lot — we still have a long ways to go."
Mark McDaniel, CEO of Cinnaire, has been a donor to the MLK Holiday Commission for seven years. After seeing the work the commission was doing, he decided to help increase the amount of scholarship money given to students.
He said he's going to continue to donate to the commission as long as he's "CEO of Cinnaire and alive."
"What they're doing is they're keeping Dr. King's vision of a dream alive and growing," McDaniel said. "They're involved in the community all year long."
The commission recently held its first art contest, alongside a long-standing essay contest, where artwork from Lansing-area middle and high school students was presented.
Artwork will be displayed at the MSU Broad Art Lab through today, Jan. 22.