Oakwood celebrates diversity on Martin Luther King Day

With an eye on the past and hope for the future, officials from Oakwood Healthcare celebrated the diversity of the community and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday.

The annual Celebration of Diversity, put on by the Oakwood Diversity Council, included inspirational songs and recognition of the winners of the Martin Luther King Day youth essay contest. Daniel Little, PhD, chancellor of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, was the key note speaker of the event. It took place at the Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center (OHMC) in Dearborn and was broadcast to several other Oakwood sites.

“It’s a special day for all of us here,” said Doug Welday, Executive Vice President of Operations & Division President of OHMC. He said that one of King’s most common messages, life in the service of others, is reflected in Oakwood’s mission statement and credo. “Those that choose to work in health care, they do that so they can help each other during the most fragile and vulnerable moments of their lives. The compassion and respect for our patients, no matter what their background or economic status, their beliefs—whatever their circumstances are—are powerful reasons why Oakwood is a great place to receive and deliver care.”

Little, who teaches philosophy and sociology at the Dearborn and Ann Arbor campuses, earned his doctorate in philosophy from Harvard and is very active with several notable causes throughout metro Detroit. He reflected on the entirety of the Civil Rights movement, from Rosa Parks’ arrest that led to the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott through the riots and violence sparked by efforts to integrate throughout the next decade. Although much progress has been made, Dr. Little said more can still be done.

“We need renewed commitment and energy to make our society genuinely equal and democratic,” he said. “We’re not there yet.

“Oakwood Healthcare System is a partner in efforts to make our Detroit region more equitable,” he added. “It is one of the things we can do to live out and further the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

The event also featured recognition of three youth essay contest winners, who were asked to reflect on the meaning of King’s remarks on the universality of justice.

Connor Lee Coogan, a third-grader at Linderman Elementary School in Allen Park, said he first learned of Martin Luther King, Jr, from his first grade teacher.

“I think Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, wants us to be fair and just,” he wrote. “We should be kind to all people that we meet each day.”

“We must stand together and always do what is right for our country. All nationalities and ethnic groups should be represented fairly and equally,” wrote Cayla Collins, an 8th grader from Brace-Lederle K-8 School.

“He’s reminded millions that we all live together in this world and he wanted all of us to live in a world that was free of all the anger, hate and injustice,” wrote Daena Faustino, a junior from Woodhaven High School. “I’ll do my best to remind everyone in my little corner of the world that we’ve only a short time on this planet we call home and we should make the most of it.”

The program opened and closed with performances by Singers of United Lands, a quartet of natives of Guatemala, Ireland, Philippines, and Siberia, Russia, whose repertoire includes folk and patriotic songs from each others’ countries. For the occasion, the performers learned and led the audience in singing the American anthems, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “We Shall Overcome.”

Oakwood employees also gathered clothes for the Oakwood Clothes Closets, which provide clean new clothing for needy patients at all Oakwood hospitals.

CUTLINES: (Top) The Singers of United Lands opened and closed Oakwood’s Celebration of Diversity on Monday. (From left to right): Evgeny Sokolov, Russia, My-Leen Formento, Philippines, Maria Quevedo, Guatemala and John Kennedy, Ireland. (Above) Daniel Little, Ph.D, chancellor of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, was the keynote speaker for the event. He reflected on the Civil Rights movement and Dr. King’s legacy