Gray Swears In MLK Commission

Barrington M. Salmon | 1/15/2014, 3 p.m.
Although it’s cutting it really close to organize happenings and events for this year’s MLK holiday, over the next three ...
Mayor Vincent C. Gray Gray swore in 17 new members to the District of Columbia's Commission on the Martin Luther King, Jr.Holiday at the John Wilson Building in Northwest on January 6. Photo by Roy Lewis

Although it’s cutting it really close to organize happenings and events for this year’s MLK holiday, over the next three years, the District’s Secretary of State and Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) expect a newly constituted commission to develop and implement a number of such activities.

On Monday, Jan. 6, Gray swore in 17 new members to the District of Columbia Commission on the Martin Luther King, Jr.Holiday Commission. During brief remarks at the John A. Wilson Building, the mayor said he wants to see programs that reflect not just King’s teachings and examples, but also the legacy of former South African President Nelson R. Mandela.

“I expect to receive recommendations for signature activities every year, encourage educational programs related to a national day of service and institutionalizing the effort so that D.C. residents know what’s going on every year to celebrate the King Holiday,” said Gray. “I want to incorporate Mandela into all our activities because both men were freedom fighters. “We need to do these things with a purpose – to free the people of the District, in the same way that King and Mandela did. One of the many characteristics of both individuals was that they were undaunted. They didn’t allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the enormity of problems they faced and were absolutely undaunted even though it would have been easy to give up.”

“That's what bringing justice is about – making the sacrifice. I ask you to make the sacrifice to bring the city forward.” 

Cynthia Brock-Smith, secretary of the District of Columbia, will chair the commission whose members will serve terms slated to end on Dec. 23, 2015.

Private citizens appointed to the board are: Denise Rolark Barnes; Charlie Hicks; Dr. Wendell Moore; Earl Fowlkes; Judith Terra; Aaron Jones; and Douglas Sloan. Ex officio members are Smith; Rev. Dexter Nutall, director of the D.C. Office of Religious Affairs; and Stephen Glaude, director of the Office of Community Affairs.

In addition, ex officio voting members are Jamila Felton; Lionell Thomas; Burnell Holland; Monica Palacio; Clarence Fluker; Cedric Jennings; and Crispus Gordon.

Gray invited Brock-Smith to join him at the podium.

“It's my honor and pleasure to be appointed chair. I worked on the March on Washington Committee. I asked the members to get together quickly to plan something for King's birthday on the 15th,” she said. “The One City – One Dream program is next week. It connects the legacy of King and Mandela. The committee will come together and make something happen. The ultimate goal is self-determination.”

“It's our hope that we get people with knowledge and who were around when King and Mandela were involved in their quest for self-determination. I am a native Washingtonian and it’s [also] important the young people learn the history and move the agenda forward. We need them to understand democracy for the city. Education is important.”

Brock-Smith wasted no time and after the swearing in, she chaired the board’s first meeting.

Gray praised the composition of the commission.