Every year the University of Wisconsin–Madison invites a speaker to address the campus to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s called the MLK Symposium, and this year it will take place on Tuesday, January 25 from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. and will feature Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and historian Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of “The 1619 Project,” an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. The UW All of Us Milwaukee team sat down with The Milwaukee Times to invite us to a pre-symposium discussion and to reflect on how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. impacts their work with All of Us.
The symposium sounds amazing, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but first how do you incorporate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s. teachings into your work?
Gina Green Harris, MPH, Co-Investigator:
One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King that keeps me grounded in my investment to our cause is “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ This really speaks to our commitment to change and advancing the agenda for equity, and in this case scientific equity through research. Dr. King said this at Ebenezer Baptist Church back in 1968, ‘Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.’ This program is about serving all mankind.
Mirtha Sosa-Pacheco, Program Manager:
At the Medical Committee for Human Rights Convention held in Chicago in 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stated: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane”. Dr. King’s declaration remains distressingly relevant in 2022 as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic globally. Many in the USA and around the world are facing disproportionate burdens in this latest human health struggle. I can only hope that this latest battle galvanizes us toward achieving healthcare as a human right, once and for all, understanding that it is a fundamental part of living a life with dignity.
Dr. Leslie McAbee, Ph.D., Milwaukee Outreach Coordinator:
My 4-year-old created a portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr., for her virtual pre-K class. King is a series of ovals graced with a smile and a mustache. It’s a simple portrait, but it’s him, our internationally beloved champion of racial and economic justice. I believe this is the first time my little daughter has connected with the legacy of MLK, Jr., finding kinship in a kind face. But over time I want her to realize that King—by necessity—lives on in the difficult, long, and exhausting work of dismantling forms of injustice. In working for the All of Us Research Program, I keep at the forefront King’s horror at “inequality, injustice in health,” which he called “the most shocking and the most inhumane.” My All of Us colleagues in MKE and I are charged with making health research more diverse and equitable, with inviting groups who have been hurt or neglected by medical research in the past to join the program and contribute to better health care for their communities. If she’ll allow it, I’d like my daughter’s portrait of MLK to live on my work desk, where it can serve as a friendly, daily reminder of how critical this work is.
Yvette Craig, UW All of Us Communications Manager:
I woke up with Dr. Maya Angelou on my mind the day the nation paused to recognize and honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for his fortitude in making this country a more unified place. Just days before, the U.S. Mint announced that Angelou’s likeness now appears on newly released quarters as part of its American Women Quarters Program. This makes her the first Black woman to appear on U.S. currency. I wondered how Dr. King would react to this historic endeavor. Would he applaud it, or think it to be a hollow gesture towards equality? You see, George Washington’s likeness remains on one side, while the flipside honors trailblazing women, like Angelou. The coin features a Black feminist poet on one side and a slave-owning president on the other. Hmmm. I’d rather see Black women honored through policies and legislation, such as pay equity. Black women, on average were paid 63 percent of what non-Hispanic white men were paid in 2019, according to the U.S. Census. That equates to taking the typical Black woman 19 months to be paid what the average white man takes home in 12 months. I admit I will save this newly-minted coin as a precious memento. Regardless, it is one step closer to inclusion, which is why diversity is so important to All of Us.
Dr. Bashir Easter, Ph.D., Assistant Director:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” At UW All of Us at the Center for Community Engagement and Health Partnerships in Milwaukee, that’s how we feel when we are dealing with the public. We try to treat people with dignity, courtesy and respect. If everyone can do that, we can all work together to change the health landscape for generations to come. Our pre-MLK Symposium discussion takes place on Tuesday, January 25 from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. Register at this link: https://uwmadison.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEvceCgqTgpHNddm4fW983j_frTMvSpcIdx.
For more information about All of Us, call (414) 219-3810, Option 1. You can also learn more about All of Us nationally at https://ww.joinallofus.org/.