Fort Wayne MLK Club’s Unity Day Celebration will feature roundtable discussions with community leaders

In honor of the national the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, the Fort Wayne MLK Club will sponsor its annual Breakfast with the Clergy and Unity Day Celebration on Monday at the Grand Wayne Convention Center in downtown Fort Wayne. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
This photo shows people who went on the Fort Wayne MLK Club's Civil Rights Trip last summer to Washington, D.C. (Courtesy photo)

Education lies at the heart of the local Martin Luther King Jr. Club’s mission, and that effort will take a new form this year at the club’s annual Unity Day Celebration on Monday, the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday.

Instead of the heavy emphasis on entertainment as in past years, this year’s event from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. will carry the theme “Creating Community Connections” and will feature small-group, roundtable discussions led by community leaders who are passionate about their topic, said Clifford F. Buttram Jr., MLK Club vice president.

“Hopefully, it helps people connect with the community,” Buttram said of both the roundtable leaders and members of the public sitting at their tables.

The roundtable discussions will be part of a full day of activities organized by the MLK Club to celebrate the life and legacy of King and to encourage education, literacy, and ethnic and cultural diversity.

The events begin with the 10th annual Breakfast with the Clergy from 8 to 10 a.m., also at the Grand Wayne Center. Bishop Willie Bolden, pastor of The Well of Fort Wayne church, will be honored as the 2018 Clergy of the Year.

The Unity Day Celebration will follow in two separate sessions. Tickets are $10 per person at the door and include both sessions.

Events from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. will include the awarding of $1,000 college scholarships to three local high school seniors and the presentation of Community Service Awards to educator Ruby Cain, business leader John Dortch and Fort Wayne City Councilman Glynn Hines, Buttram said.

The award-winning local Voices of Unity Youth Choir also will perform three songs during the session, Buttram said.

The roundtable discussions will take place from 1 to 4 p.m., with 10 chairs placed at each of 12 tables, Buttram said. Unity Day participants will be admitted to the roundtable discussions based on the number on their admission ticket, with the first 120 tickets sold being admitted first.

Roundtable leaders are scheduled to speak for no more than 10 to 12 minutes so people at their table have time to ask questions, Buttram said. People will be asked to rotate tables every 15 minutes.

MLK Club members presume some people won’t want to stay for more than two or three roundtable discussions, Buttram said. As they leave, people with tickets No. 121 and higher will be admitted as roundtable seats become available.

MLK Club leaders believe most people will get to sit in on at least four roundtable discussions, if they choose to do so, Buttram said.

In addition to connecting members of the public and community leaders, MLK Club members also hope the Unity Day events encourage more people to get involved in the club’s committees, he said.


Here are the roundtable leaders and their topics for the MLK Club’s Unity Day Celebration on Monday at the Grand Wayne Convention Center:

• John Dortch, How to Start a Small Business

• Joe Jordan, Mentoring

• Sharon Tucker, Cyber Liability

• Michelle Chambers, Voter Education 101

• Roberta Ridley, The Focus on Why Genealogy

• Aaron Lane, Perception vs. Reality – Understanding Separate Realities

• Amos Norman, The Power of Influence

• Marshall White, Business Planning/Strategy

• Garry Hamilton, Community Policing

• Betty Buttram, Pen to the Page to the Stage: How to Self-Publish a Book or Play

• Emmary Butler, Infant Mortality in Fort Wayne

• Anthony Ridley, Building Community Partnerships


The Fort Wayne Martin Luther King Jr. Club will host a variety of activities Monday in celebration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

All of the activities will take place at the Grand Wayne Convention Center, 120 W. Jefferson Blvd.:

• 8-10 a.m.: Breakfast with the Clergy — The event recognizes the contribution local African-American clergy make in the community. Bishop Willie Bolden, pastor of The Well of Fort Wayne church will be honored as the 2018 Clergy of the Year.

• 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.: Unity Day Celebration — Morning activities include the awarding of college scholarships to three local high school seniors and the presentation of Community Service Awards to educator Ruby Cain, business leader John Dortch and Fort Wayne City Councilman Glynn Hines. The Voices of Unity Youth Choir also will perform, and a spoken word artist will present a tribute to the late the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Beginning at 1 p.m., people can attend roundtable discussions with 12 community leaders.

Throughout the Unity Day activities, the MLK Club also will announce information about its 2018 Civil Rights Trip, which will include a four-day, three-night tour of civil rights museums and sites in Memphis, Tenn., and Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma in Alabama.



The 33rd annual community Unity Service will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Blackhawk Ministries, 7400 E. State Blvd.

The service, which is sponsored by Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County in conjunction with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, will include a panel discussion on racial reconciliation in the Fort Wayne community and the church’s role in leading that effort.

Panel members are scheduled to include local pastors Bishop Crystal Bush, New Zion Tabernacle; Rick Hawks, The Chapel; Kevin Rivers, Blackhawk Ministries; John Suciu, Wallen Road Baptist; Kenneth Christmon, Turner Chapel AME Church; and Prophet Cedric Walker, Joshua’s Temple. Iric Headley, director of the city’s Fort Wayne United program, will serve as moderator.


The university invites the public to join its students, faculty and staff on Monday in honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in “A Day On, Not a Day Off” by doing community service projects in Fort Wayne.


Meet Monday at the USF North Campus, 2702 Spring St.

• 9:30 a.m.: Registration in the North Campus foyer

• 10 a.m.: Program/dialogue “Straight Talk with Ketu Oladuwa: Building Relationships in America.” Oladuwa, a local poet, journalist, musician and director, will share life experiences and lead a discussion about relationships, race and community in a program including music, questions and dialogue.

• 11:30 a.m.: Call to Service/Mass in the North Campus Auditorium

• Noon-12:45 p.m.: Lunch in the North Campus Gym. People with a campus meal plan are asked to bring their meal cards and use their meal points. Lunch will also be available for people who don’t have a campus meal plan.

• 12:45-1 p.m.: Transition to service sites

• 1-4 p.m. – Service projects on and off campus. Sign up at https://usfmlkday.eventbrite.com


ON-CAMPUS SERVICE SITE: USF North Campus Gym, 2702 Spring St. for Project Linus blanket making, making mats for the homeless and letter writing.

OFF-CAMPUS SERVICE SITES: Mustard Seed Furniture Bank, 3636 Illinois Road; Friends of the Third World, 611 W. Wayne St.; St. Vincent de Paul Store, 1600 S. Calhoun St.; Franciscan Center, 1015 E. Maplegrove Ave.; Vincent Village (f8 Photo Club members only); American Red Cross, 1212 E. California Ave.; and Blue Jacket, 2826 S. Calhoun St.


The public is invited to a forum with Fort Wayne United on March 1 in the North Campus auditorium, 2702 Spring St. Reception at 5:30 p.m. and forum at 6 p.m. featuring a discussion with residents of the local African-American community and members of the Fort Wayne Police Department.


For more information about University of Saint Francis events or to register for them, go to sf.edu/mlkday.


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