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Mid-Michigan’s MLK Commission welcomes 4 of ‘Little Rock Nine’ in MLK Day of Celebration Jan. 17

Annual event to recognize 65th anniversary of ‘Little Rock Crisis’;
emphasizes age is not a factor in ability to correct injustice

Featured photo: Testament: The Little Rock Nine Monument” honors the courage of the nine African American students who began the process of desegregating Little Rock’s public schools in 1957. Located on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol, the memorial features bronze sculptures of the nine students, along with plaques bearing quotations from each of them. (Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism)

 LANSING, Mich. – The signature annual event of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan is recognizing the 65th anniversary of the Little Rock Crisis that mobilized a nation to ensure access to a quality education.

The 2022 MLK Day of Celebration will feature four of the nine students, known as the Little Rock Nine, who volunteered in 1957 to desegregate one of the nation’s largest all-white high schools. Their courageous actions tested the strength of the 1954 unanimous Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional.

The commission’s celebration will be broadcast, Jan. 17, 7-8 p.m. EST, on WILX TV 10-NBC and WLNS TV 6-CBS. It will also be on the commission’s website and YouTube channel, and rebroadcast Tuesday, Jan. 18, 12:30 p.m., on ELAJ TV CW-5, and on Sunday, Jan. 23, 5 p.m., on WLAJ TV 53-ABC.

“The stories our guests will tell reveal their strength and resolve to correct an injustice even at their young ages at the time — the youngest was 14,” said Elaine Hardy, commission chair.

“They and their families endured constant intimidation, bullying, and verbal and physical abuse; but their actions helped define the civil rights movement,” Hardy added. “One of the strongest lessons they offer today is that age need not be a factor in one’s ability to correct an injustice.”

The theme for the 2022 celebration is “In the long run, justice finally must spring from a new moral climate.” This was written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to President Dwight D. Eisenhower when requesting federal assistance with school integration in Little Rock, Arkansas. The nine students had initially been met by a hostile crowd of about 1,000 people and the Arkansas National Guard, as ordered by Gov. Orval Faubus.

The former Little Rock Central High School students appearing in the program are:

  • Ernest Green
  • Carlotta Walls LaNier
  • Dr. Terrance Roberts
  • Minnijean Brown Trickey
  • Ernest Green

    Carlotta Walls LaNier
  • Dr. Terrance Roberts

    Minnijean Brown Trickey

They will be interviewed by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II. Two have ties to Michigan State University: Green earned a bachelor’s and a master’s at MSU; LaNier attended MSU for two years before completing a bachelor’s in Colorado. More information about the four guests is at https://bit.ly/CommissionLR9.

The Jan. 17 program also includes:

  • Musical performances, including one by Candice Glover, an American R&B singer and actress who won the 12th season of “American Idol.”
  • Messages from elected officials.
  • Recognition of winners of the commission’s student essay contest that offers $17,500 in prizes and scholarships.
  • Announcement of the commission’s annual sponsors.
  • Candice Glover is a featured performer at the MLK Day of Celebration. She rose to fame as the winner of the 12th season of “American Idol” and has since performed on Broadway, on television and for audiences across the globe.

Many organizations, including City of East Lansing and City of Lansing, actively support the commission’s work. Corporate sponsors donating $10,000 or more for 2022 programming are AF Group/Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, CASE Credit Union, Cinnaire, Consumers Energy, Dean Transportation, Delta Dental of Michigan, Jackson, LAFCU, Lake Trust Credit Union, MacDonald Broadcasting and MSU Federal Credit Union.

Mark McDaniel, Cinnaire CEO, will return as master of ceremonies, and a digital program book will be available for download from the commission’s website. Sponsorships are still available.

This is the second time in the event’s 37-year history that it will have been televised rather than live. Pre-pandemic, the annual celebration was presented before sold-out audiences of up to 2,200 at the Lansing Center, Lansing.

The commission’s MLK Day of Celebration is a tribute to the inspiring civil rights leader. For more information visit https://mlkmidmichigan.com or follow the commission on Facebook, @MLKCommOfMidMI, and Twitter, @MLKCommOfMidMI.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan works to support equality, diversity and social justice. It focuses on the area’s pressing issues of literacy, youth violence, hunger, mentoring, education and community enrichment. The nonprofit organization hosts speakers and concerts, supports community service agencies, and promotes youth initiatives, such as essay and art contests, college scholarships and an annual Y-Achievers tour for high school students.

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