I was just 21 when I learned that Martin Luther King had been assassinated in Memphis. Several of my friends and I, who were all preparing to graduate from the University of Michigan, immediately gathered in our small apartment to watch on our tiny black and white TV to seek and understand the details of his death. Tears flowed as we sat in shock watching one of our heroes being remembered. His “I Have a Dream Speech“, played on continual repeat on the television and radio.
We all shared an eerily strange flashback to 11/22/63, when we were seniors in high school. At that time we were watching the aftermath of the assassination of our beloved President, John F. Kennedy. The Sunday after his death, we watched in horror as Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was, himself, shot and killed on live TV by Jack Ruby.(Little did we know that in only a few months later on 06/6/1968, another of our heroes, Robert F. Kennedy would also be assassinated.)
January 15, 1970
Fast forward 20 months when, to my surprise, I am teaching in New York City. I am in Lincoln Center with a group of my Haitian, Puerto Rican, and African American sixth graders who are performing in a tribute to Martin Luther King . As they join the chorus, my tears flow again, as I hear them singing, “We Shall Overcome“. These are tears of joy. I am so proud of my young students.
January 17, 2020
Now, almost 53 later I am living back in Ann Arbor and hosting another tribute to Dr. King. This time 125 leaders from the area have gathered at Zingerman’s Roadhouse to listen to a panel of speakers discuss the impact of Dr. King on their lives and on the businesses they lead. One after another, these women and men of color describe how much things have improved in our society and how they have been able to launch and run businesses. While they have faced steep challenges, they have been able to be successful. Despite the divisions which remain in our society, the panelists demonstrated that Dr. King’s death was not in vain. Dr. King would hopefully be proud of how our society has improved. What follows is a summary of our guests’ accomplishments which demonstrate some of these improvements:
Two Co-Founders of Menace Media, Mursaleen Nazad and Agron Berishaj, represented their diverse heritages being from Hamtramck, MI, as they spoke about entrepreneurship in the music industry. Both Co-Founders described their various passions about wanting to help Detroit grow, music production, hip-hop culture, and the broader fine arts community. “Detroit has a music economy, but not a music industry like in Atlanta or Los Angeles. That’s what we’re aiming for with our company.” Menace Media provides digital marketing solutions to creative entrepreneurs, artist growth and development strategies, and creative perspectives on branding opportunities for companies large and small. The company’s most prolific case study to date is with the work it’s done for Detroit artist, Brenton Freeman, also known by his stage name as “B Free.” The company helped Brenton secure three halftime performances and a commercial series with the Detroit Pistons, developed a brand partnership with Puma, and established a radio presence on 97.9 WJLB. Looking forward, Mursaleen and Agron aspire to continue working with their larger team, based out of Detroit, to develop a successful record label and creative incubator in Detroit.
- Swatee Kulkarni: My presentation was about GDI – we have been involved in IT consulting and talent acquisition. I talked about talent acquisition as GDI’s core business and as a subject of my PhD research. When we started InfoReady back in 2010, it became even more clear to me that the people you hire are very important for success of the company. Having right people to do right things at right time makes or breaks a company. I think another important success factor is the community and ecosystem available to minority people. (http://www.gdii.com/)
- Robin Pollack, second-generation owner & chief explorer at Journeys International:
My parents started Journeys International in 1978, at a time when most global travel offerings operated within a paradigm of conquering a destination in insulation from foreign cultures. Journeys’ vision was for travelers to learn deeply about their destination while helping local people thrive, sustaining traditional cultures, and conserving natural environments. These values have become much more widely adopted in the travel industry today, and we continue to seek ways to push travelers to expand their thinking about how they fit into the global social and environmental ecosystem. Our travelers sometimes wrestle with the tensions between their western values and the values of the cultures they encounter on their adventures. As a woman in the global tourism industry, I also grapple with the tension between learning about other cultures non-judgmentally and advocating for the opportunities of women business owners in tourism around the world. (https://www.journeysinternational.com/)
- Martin Smith: Named after Dr. Martin Luther King, at age 5 I travelled to programs and churches throughout Metro-Detroit reciting Dr. King’s entire I Have A Dream speech. Today, I try to live out Dr. King’s dream by treating everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of whether their beliefs align with my own. It made me proud that people said my wedding party resembled the United Nations. Our clients at Overflow Marketing Solutions are similarly diverse, a direct result of Dr. King’s efforts. As CEO of Overflow, it’s become my mission to bring clarity to online marketing. Whether B2B, B2C or Non-profit organizations, to efficiently leverage Google, Facebook & LinkedIn requires knowing how to locate your perfect customer online and get them to take action. We’ve been called “the clean-up agency” as we’re regularly brought in to diagnose and transform unprofitable online campaigns. If interested, members of the Leaders Connect community can register for a complimentary growth session here: https://iwantoverflow.com/your-growth-plan/ (https://iwantoverflow.com/).