Cinnaire was honored to join our partners from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan to host the 38th Annual MLK Day of Celebration at the Lansing Center on January 16th. Mark McDaniel, Cinnaire President and CEO, once again served as Honorary Chairperson for the celebration which featured special guest Fred Gray, a preacher, activist, and civil rights attorney who represented Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, and plaintiffs in the Tuskegee experiment lawsuit. Gray, who Dr. King referred to as “chief counsel for the protest movement”, recently received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Recognized as one of the nation’s leading civil rights attorneys for more than 60 years, Gray is still practicing law at the age of 92.

“Fred Gray is the preeminent civil rights attorney,” said Elaine Hardy, Commission Chair. “His boldness and courage at a young age to fight for equality and the dismantling and destruction of segregation paved the way for other lawyers and social rights activists to engage in the civil rights movement.”

Hardy introduced McDaniel as honorary chair, sharing his statement, “I’m awaken, and I’m not shaken,” a testament to Mark’s commitment to continue to fight for racial equality.

“If you want a dream to come true, wake up! Let us not assume for one moment that our work is done, the struggle for equal justice continues and we must stay awake.” Gray encouraged attendees to recommit to the fight for social justice. “The challenge to yourselves is to leave here today more committed than when you came, more challenged to follow the model from the civil rights movement to lead change within your own communities.”

More than 1,200 people attended the event to celebrate and honor the life and legacy of Dr. King, including Senator Debbie Stabenow, Congresswoman Elisa Slotkin, Senator Sarah Anthony, Representative Joe Tate, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, East Lansing Mayor Ron Bacon, and Michigan State University Interim President Theresa Woodruff. The event brought together attendees from all different backgrounds and races.

“As I look around the room and see people from all backgrounds and cultures here today, I realize we are standing in a moment of history together, living the dream of Martin Luther King,” said McDaniel. “Today, we sit at the table of brotherhood as we celebrate and honor the life and the teachings of Dr. King. As the struggle for equality continues, we must recommit ourselves to labor and love based on his values, and to commit to acts of social equity every single day.”

The celebration included musical performances by American Idol Winner Candice Glover, who captured the audience with her soulful performance of the song Rise Up. Wintley Phipps, a world-renowned vocal artist, pastor, and education activist, led the audience through an inspiring and uplifting performance of We Shall Overcome, a gospel song known as a key anthem of the civil rights movement. The theme for the 2023 event, “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood”, speaks to the transformational place in history our nation finds itself in once again.

“As hard as people can hate, we can love them more,” Commissioner Hardy commented. “Today we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King and tomorrow let’s challenge ourselves, our nation, and the world to move firmly to the solid Rock of Brotherhood.”

Representative Joe Tate and Senator Sarah Anthony received the Keeper of the Dream award, an honor recognizing their commitment to the mission of the commission. Barbara Roberts Mason received the King Legacy Service award for her years of dedication and service to Mid-Michigan in bringing about social equity.

Mark S. McDaniel and James Butler Legacy Scholarships 

Cinnaire donates $50,000 annually to support the Mark S. McDaniel and James Butler College Scholarship program. The competitive scholarship program is designed to inspire and empower high school students from all backgrounds to achieve higher education. This year, as a special tribute to James Butler, Cinnaire contributed an additional $5,000 to each scholarship recipient. These four recipients submitted essays reflecting on the 2023 theme. Click here to read the essays!

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