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Hundreds of Jackson community leaders, students gather to celebrate MLK’s dream

January 17, 2020

Jackson, Mich. - A community breakfast to honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and what he stood for turned out to be the biggest in its history.

Nearly 500 business and community leaders and students attended the sold-out MLK Diversity Breakfast at Gene Davis and Sons Banquet and Convention Center Friday morning. The program is put on every year by the MLK Diversity Committee, which is a partnership between the Chamber of Commerce, the Jackson County ISD and the Jackson Human Relations Commission, with the purpose to celebrate the spirit of Dr. King and the middle school Challenge Days that take place every fall.

Now in its 13th year, Challenge Days have brought together more than 6,000 students across Jackson County. The 2019 Challenge Day program was attended by 600 youth over six days and was hosted by Jackson College and Western High School. 

Challenge Day and Dr. King’s legacy go hand in hand. The program teaches young students to be accepting of others and look past the things that make us different, like race and gender. It provides young people with the knowledge and tools to make their schools more accepting places. It also helps build community within schools and teaches students that despite our differences, we are all the same. 

Ava Snider, a 7th grader at Michigan Center, shared her Challenge Day experience during the MLK Breakfast, saying she and her classmates learned so much they didn’t know about each other and themselves. “It helped many students come to the realization that there are some kids out there that just need a friend,” said Snider. Since Challenge Day, Snider says there is less bullying and her school is a much better place. “If you get the opportunity to go to a Challenge Day, please do so because this could make our world a better place.”

Henry Ford Allegiance Health President and CEO Paula Autry served as the program’s keynote speaker. She talked about Dr. King’s legacy and how it inspires her today, citing his dedication to faith, commitment to serve and lead, his focus on education and the many roles he served as civil rights leader, pastor, father, husband and friend. Mrs. Autry asked the audience to take away a few key beliefs of his own as well, including the power of persistence. 

“To quote Dr. King, ‘if you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.’”

Other program speakers included Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Interim President John Crist, State of Michigan Director for AARP Michigan Paula Cunningham, Comcast Director of External Affairs John Gardner, Michigan Center Jr./Sr. High School Counselor Shawn Kiley, President and CEO of Center for Family Health Molly Kaser and Jax Naz Pastor James Haldane. 

Proceeds from the MLK Diversity Breakfast raised more than $6,000 for the 2020 Challenge Days. Visit to learn more about Challenge Day or contact the MLK Diversity/Challenge Day Committee at 517-782-8221.

MLK breakfast

 MLK breakfast

MLK breakfast

MLK breakfast

Kaci Babineau
Marketing & Special Projects