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Messages of unity delivered at NKY Branch NAACP MLK Community Outreach Luncheon

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

The Northern Kentucky region, and the nation, are embroiled in controversy over an incident in Washington D.C. that involved students from Covington Catholic High School, Native Americans and a group identified as Black Hebrew Israelites.

Jerome Bowles, president of the Northern Kentucky Branch NAACP said the messages of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. can help solve many of the nation’s current issues (photos by Mark Hansel)

Inside the Newport Syndicate Monday, however, those in attendance were preaching a message of diversity, inclusion and unity at the Northern Kentucky Branch NAACP Branch Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Community Outreach Luncheon.

Still, the events in the nation’s capital, was heavy on the minds of many. Some saw it as an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of Dr. King’s teachings that focused on bringing diverse groups together.

Jerome Bowles, president of the Northern Kentucky Branch NAACP, said the organization is in it’s 16th year hosting the luncheon and keeping Dr. King’s dream alive, but there is still much to be done.

“We know that there is a lot going on now, but based on the blueprint Dr. King has set for us we always reflect on the past and apply that to the future,”  Bowles said. “I know that can help us resolve many of our current issues. We just need to reflect on peace, justice and equality for everybody.”

Click below to view a short video collage

Messages of unity were delivered Monday at the Northern Kentucky Branch NAACP Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Luncheon at the Newport Syndicate

Posted by Mark Hansel on Monday, January 21, 2019

In his opening, Bowles spoke directly about the events in Washington D.C.

“We have to look at the educational issue in what we can learn from this,” Bowles said. “We have to teach our students to move forward and our school leaders to move forward.”

The theme of this year’s luncheon was “We can’t rest now, the stakes are too high.” and Bowles said the incident in Washington D.C. demonstrates the truth in that message.

“The NAACP has a good relationship with the Diocese of Covington and we are going to continue that relationship, but we recognize that whenever things like this happen, we always ask our educational institutions, our businesses and corporations, to get ahead of these things,” Bowles said. “The more confident, the more prepared and the more inclusive you are, in terms of diversity, the more prepared you are to handle these types of situations.”

The annual luncheon is seen as a fitting way to honor the slain civil rights leader, but Bowles said if people don’t carry his message into the communities, it is a less effective tribute.

“The goal is for the excitement and enthusiasm that occurs here to be brought to our region and we think there are a lot of individuals out there that embrace diversity and inclusion,” Bowles said. “We just need to carry that message forward and secure additional voices that are part of peace, justice and equality for everyone.”

Rep. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder, said the Community Outreach Luncheon is always a wonderful event, but the message it delivers is even more timely this year.

“It couldn’t be a better moment with, unfortunately, what happened in D. C.,” Keene said. “To see the legacy Dr. Martin Luther King has left us play out here is a tremendous thing for our area and region. It shows the diversity and who we really are, here in Northern Kentucky.”

The luncheon certainly showed a side of Northern Kentucky the region’s leaders would prefer to be in the national spotlight.

Business leaders, educators, elected officials and everyday citizens from all walks of life embraced each other and shared stories throughout the afternoon.

The traditional program also included recognition of special guests, tributes, awards and scholarship presentations.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare is an annual scholarship sponsor at the luncheon and at another NAACP event later in the year. Members of the St. E Diversity Committee were on hand for the event.

Tatiana Phillips of Holmes High School (second from right) attend the luncheon with family and friends and received a scholarship from St. Elizabeth Healthcare. She plans to attend Howard University in Washington D.C. Also in the photo, l to r, Debra Vance, director of communications for Covington Independent Public Schools, Isaiah Phillips, London Deramus, Tina Phillips, and Jayla Bright (click to enlarge).

John Mitchell, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Fort Thomas and Covington for St. E, said it is critical to support the region’s next generation of leaders.

“We want to contribute to continuing education and recognizing students who excel in the region,” Mitchell said. “It’s important for us, as we serve everyone in the community, regardless of race, nationality, creed, or ability to pay. One of the goals of St. Elizabeth is to make Northern Kentucky one of the healthiest communities in America, and one of the way we do that is through our community outreach.”

Tatiana Phillips, 17, a senior at Holmes High School, was one of the scholarship recipients.

Her mother, Tina Phillips, said educating students is an excellent way to honor Dr. King’s legacy.

“Only because of what he did are my children able to be a part of this today, and is my daughter receiving one of the scholarships,” Phillips said. “We can see that in the climate of the world, and even more so today, we need to start thinking about the legacy that he left for us.”

The Keynote Speaker was Ursula Doyle, a professor at the Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University. She focused on one of the remaining vestiges of slavery, the burial places of those brought into this country during that time.

She said that from the 16th through the 19th century, 10 million Africans were deported into the Americas and 450,000 of those came into the United States.

“They were brought to these shores, of course to build what would become a nation, stripped, in the process, of their own,” Doyle said. “But build they did – roads, plantations, houses, courthouses, the White House, universities, the fortunes of others. By the signing of the Emancipation proclamation in 1863, over four million persons had been enslaved in the United States.”

If all of those persons lived here, she said, they also died here.

“That vestige of slavery, that remnant that I’m here to discuss are the burial grounds that served as final resting places for those that have been more worthy of rest. They exist in each of the slave-holding states,” Doyle said. “They blend into viney overgrowths, rock piles, (etc), or they lie underneath buildings.”

She would like to see a concerted, nationwide effort to locate, and restore if possible, or at least acknowledge, those burial places.

Members of the Second Baptist Church Mass Choir, from Newport, provided a musical interlude at the community outreach luncheon

The National Anthem was sung by Jahara Evans of Erlanger and Crystal Madaris, third vice president of the NKY NAACP Branch, once again led those in attendance in the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

The Second Baptist Church Mass Choir, from Newport, also provided a musical interlude.

Ashley Kirkland, anchor/reporter with WLWT TV was the emcee.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com 

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