City and Utoledo’s Annual MLK Unity Day Celebration

Mayor Kapszukiewicz and Darryl Brown

By Dawn Scotland
The Truth Reporter

The University of Toledo and City of Toledo’s Human Rights Commission hosted their annual MLK Unity Day Celebration, Monday, January 15. This year was held virtually. The event was hosted by Alexis Means of 13abc and featured keynote speaker activist Rosa Clemente. The 2024 theme was “I AM the Dream.”

Alexis Means opened the event and served as the mistress of ceremonies. Welcomes were given by Dr. Gregory Postal, MD, president of the University of Toledo, and Mayor Wade Kapzukiewicz.

The weekend-long celebration, which was to kick off at Lucille’s Jazz Club for a poetry night [cancelled due to severe weather] culminated in the virtual Unity Day. The celebration featured a partnership with Black-owned clothing brand Mud Made and local churches to provide exclusive MLK Day celebration apparel.

Following the presentation of Colors Toledo by local law enforcement and military, Olivia Johnson, resident artist at Toledo Opera sang the National Anthem accompanied by Emily Moran of Toledo Opera. The Black National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing, was performed on saxophone by local musician Mike Williams.

Toledo School Board Member Randall Parker III with Kid Mayor Gabrielle Mukiira

An Interview with Darryl Brown, founder and creative director of Midwest Kids Inc., and Darryl Brown LLC. conducted by Jeda McGhee, Creadio lead producer, was streamed. Brown had received the key to the City of Toledo the previous week in anticipation of Unity Day for his trailblazing in fashion design.

Following a rap cypher, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and Toledo City Councilwoman Cerssandra McPherson offered individual virtual remarks.

Performances of the event included: The Toledo Opera, JP Dynasty, a rap cypher performed by local artist, Tahyah Dance Studio,  Friendship Baptist Church and University of Toledo Gospel Choir, My5tery Music Band and Nikki D and The Browns.

The university issued a statement addressing that the annual MLK scholarship could not be awarded this year due to rulings at the Supreme Court. “…In light of the June 29, 2023 U.S. Supreme Court decision on the use of affirmative action in higher education admissions, we will be pausing the distribution of all scholarships that consider race as a part of their award criteria. While we carefully review and adjust our policies to align with the implications of that legal decision, The University of Toledo remains dedicated to promoting equity and a sense of belonging within our campus community…We are reviewing options to still award this year’s MLK Unity Day scholarships. “

Additional remarks were given by Kid Mayor Gabrielle Mukiira as well as by Erin Baker, chair of the City of Toledo Human Relations Commission.

The keynote speaker, Rosa Alicia Clemente, an influential organizer, independent journalist, producer, and scholar activist served as the highlight of the event. Born and raised in the Bronx, NY, Clemente is renowned for her activism and advocacy in the Black-Latinx community. She is the first Afro-Latina woman to run for vice president in 2008.

Clemente expressed the importance of community organizing, shared her background and experience and also impressed the need of people to prepare themselves for the many issues and turmoil that America is facing including the upcoming 2024 elections.

The livestreamed event can be viewed on the University of Toledo’s website and the City of Toledo’s Facebook page and YouTube page.


Rosa Alicia Clemente