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In This Issue:
During the last 50 years, there has been much progress to achieving a racially-balanced society, free from prejudice and discrimination.
Speaking before the audience in the Bornstein Amphitheater, John Payton, president and director-counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), challenged our society with finding the biases that still exist and to create the kind of world envisioned by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was at the BWH’s annual Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that Payton, who was the keynote speaker at the event, listed some of the examples of discrimination still evident today in the areas of health care, education and the workplace.
“We’re doing harm to our society when we allow discrimination to happen,” said Payton.
The NAACP’s LDF is the country’s premier legal organization that fights for racial justice through litigation, advocacy and public education. Payton has led the LDF’s involvement in dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and many lower courts and has worked to expand the organization’s interaction with other civil and human rights organizations. Payton said that while he felt Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been pleased to see Barack Obama elected to the office of President of the United States, the lack of an African American in other legislative offices would have saddened him.
“What kind of society do we aspire to be?” Payton asked the audience. “We need to be looking at what we have left to do. We can celebrate the man, but we need to take up the mission.”
BW/F President Betsy Nabel, MD, recalled watching Dr. King’s historic speech, “I Have a Dream Today,” on a black and white television in St. Paul, Minn., when she was 11 years old. She said the question of what kind of society we strive to be is a critical one amidst the debate of health care reform.
“For many years, I’ve lived with the belief that the content of one’s character was more important than anything else,” said Nabel. “Integrity, respect and simple acts of kindness can have a remarkable impact on individuals and their lives. This is what Dr. King stood for.”
The event included a musical performance from the students at the Maurice J. Tobin K-8 School Chorus, who sang “Save the Country,” originally performed by the jazz vocal group The 5th Dimension, and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” written by James Weldon Johnson, a song also known as the African American National Anthem.
Angela P. Howard, BWH senior administrative assistant, Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology, and chair, Association of Multicultural Members of Partners (AMMP), presented two BWHers, pathology technician Vivian Chan and Patricia C. Timmons, a project coordinator in the Cardiovascular Wellness Service, with 2012 Greater Boston YMCA Achievers awards, which recognizes the professional and community-based achievements of African American, Hispanic/Latino and other multicultural men and women throughout the Boston area.
Payton said that King’s legacy needed to be carried on to create the kind of society needed: one free of prejudice and equal in every sense of the word.
“It’s important his moral force not be relegated to history,” Payton said.