Interview with Healy Jackson about why Oakwood should celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.
(Note: Healy Jackson serves on the Oakwood Inclusion Coalition (OIC) leadership team. A resident of Oakwood since 1986, Healy has been an active volunteer in the community. She first became an admirer of Dr. King after reading the letter he wrote from a jail cell to white religious leaders explaining his participation in a non-violent demonstration against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama.)
Why do you admire Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?
As a former educator, I respect his lifelong commitment to educating himself. His opinions and beliefs were formed through many years of intense academic work. He studied under Baptist, Protestant, and Catholic theologians. He explored different eastern and western philosophies, most notably Mohandas Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence. When Dr. King spoke, it was with learned authority.
I’ve often reflected on King’s leadership. He was a convicted leader who challenged not only his opponents but also his allies to be better: he even accused the African-American community of complacency in the face of oppression. He called for the oppressed, the economically disadvantaged, and all victims of injustice to act in their own interest through well-organized peaceful protest.
Not only that, Dr. King also challenged himself as much as he did others. He wasn’t afraid of people and places that were different from what he knew. Although he grew up surrounded by family in a small southern town, he had the courage to live, study, work, and teach in unfamiliar places where he was considered different. In these experiences, he sought to understand and learn from the differences he encountered.
Why do you think it is important to celebrate Dr. King?
We need to celebrate people who lead by example and devote their lives to making the world a better place. Dr. King’s faith compelled him to act against social injustice; his faith demanded that he accept all people and embrace their differences. It required that he wage war against injustice without inciting violence. We need to celebrate people who show us that we also can effect positive change in our communities and remind us that all people deserve to be respected.
Also, celebrations can lead to conversations. We may think we know the story of the civil rights movement, but it only takes one attempt to teach a child about it to make us reconsider our assumptions and start asking important questions again. I look back fondly on the Kettering-Oakwood MLK Day Breakfast, a tradition that started when my children were young. By challenging young people to create artistic interpretations of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, interpretations which sometimes challenged the older generations in turn, our two towns built awareness and encouraged dialogue between children, teens, parents, and teachers.
Why is the OIC encouraging Oakwood residents to participate in the Dayton MLK March?
Every day, Oakwood citizens are quietly going about the same type of work that Dr. King proposed. They work for or volunteer with organizations that strive to right social inequities and serve the economically disadvantaged in our larger Miami Valley community. But this work remains invisible to our neighbors if we don’t get together, get to know each other, and talk about it! I believe that, by assembling together under the OIC banner, Oakwood citizens who are working in many different ways to achieve peace and justice will have the opportunity to network and gain strength from one another.
Our participation also conveys our interest to the larger Dayton community: too few people from outside Oakwood know how involved our citizens are in the region’s effort to build a more just society where everyone has the opportunity to achieve individual goals. So, rather than plan a separate MLK event for Oakwood, the OIC leadership team thought it would be more rewarding for residents of all ages to celebrate the ideals of MLK with the larger Dayton community.
Residents who have attended past Third Street marches have found the experience to be powerful. As one resident shared, “There is definitely a feeling of solidarity in the simple act of walking with hundreds of other folks.”
We hope lots of other residents will join us to demonstrate our commitment to inclusion.
Please join us for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial March in Downtown Dayton! At 9:15 a.m. on Monday, January 17, the OIC will gather outside 1323 W. Third Street. Parking is available at the nearby Drew Health Center. Look for our brightly colored signs with the OIC logo! Starting at 9:30, we will march east, cross the Third Street Bridge, and continue to the campus of Sinclair Community College, where a short program is planned.
Please register to participate on the oakwoodic.org website so we know how many to expect. You may also indicate if you want to carpool, and someone from the OIC will help you make connections.
Additional details are available on the Dayton MLK website: https://www.mlkdaytoninc.org/.