|2019 King Coalition King Holiday Festivities
Evaluating the Legacy of Brown vs.
Board of Education
Dr. Gloria Hawkins (l-r) and Ed Lee are the co-chairs of the King
Coalition, which was founded in the mid 1980s to promote activities that
honored Dr. King’s legacy during the King Holiday.
and his hope were not quite true. I was listening to this discussion between two journalists on NPR a while back. They were talking about how 60 years have
passed and still many of the schools or school districts in Texas are still segregated. And it is really affecting the achievement of young people. They were talking
about how in East Texas, they were using the stair-step form of integration of the schools. They would do a grade a year. I kind of smiled and chuckled and said that
sounds like my hometown and indeed, it was. They were talking about how at that time, we were talking about Black kids. But now the demographics have changed
and now not only is it affecting Black kids, but it is also affecting the growing Latino population, particularly Mexican Americans. It’s affecting them, so you have the
achievement gap within the public schools. You say to yourself, ‘Wow, that was a long, long time ago.’ And young people and communities are still dealing with
those social ills.”
Ed Lee, senior vice-president at the Urban League of Greater Madison agrees that the legacy of segregation is still with us.
“We still see the disparities on academic achievement,” Lee said. “There are still dramatic disparities across the board in the areas of access to equal educational
opportunities in terms of outcomes and academic achievement here in Madison and all across the country.”
While popular opinion is that segregation is harmful to students of color, Hawkins feels that it is destructive of all students no matter what their background is.
“We must continue to move forward,” Hawkins insisted. “We cannot become complacent. Brown vs. Board of Education, a landmark case in this country, really
provided opportunities for us to address the whole notion of desegregation in the public schools. It is unfortunate that even though this was now the law of the land
— it has led to so many things in terms of laws trying to eradicate segregation — when we look in many of our communities across the country, in terms of
neighborhoods and the educational sector, there is still prominent segregation. It’s a segregation that really, in many ways, impedes the intellectual and social
growth of all people, not just young Black boys and girls or Latino or Native American or Southeast Asian young people. It impedes the growth of all of us because
white young people suffer too and then they grow up to be young adults and parents with children and then many become prominent within their respective
communities. But they are also missing the richness of what a really inclusive community would provide for all of us. It says to me that we must continue to move
The King Coalition’s theme this year is Brown vs. Board of Education: The Legacy Continues, which will feature a speech by Cheryl Brown Henderson, the daughter
of one of the Brown plaintiffs, on Monday night. But there is a whole lot of celebrating to be done before then.
“Friday night will be our 32nd Annual Free Community Dinner hosted by the King Coalition at the Gordon Dining & Event Center on the UW-Madison campus,” Lee
said. “That will start at 4:30 p.m. and run until 7 p.m. It’s a free meal and the opportunity for the community to come together and break bread in fellowship and eat a
good meal. There will be a free bus service to Gordon from the YWCA and Grace Episcopal Church on the Capitol Square if anyone needs transportation to get there.”
The dinner is one of Hawkins’ favorite events.
“The Free Community Dinner is a coming together of people from a cross-section of the community, people from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic
backgrounds, people of different faiths and religions and beliefs,” Hawkins emphasized. “It’s a time for the community to come together and to find out that we do
have a lot in common. One of the things that we have in common is that we are, in different ways, invested in this community. There are many positive things about
the community. There are things that we work very hard to change. But still we really care about Madison, Wisconsin and Dane County. And so we are invested in
that. It’s an opportunity, regardless of our perspectives to come together. We can also reflect on the teachings of Dr. King and why the whole Civil Rights Movement
came about so that all of us could be the beneficiaries of a society in which we are all treated in an equitable manner. The Community Dinner is very special to me. I
really look forward to it. And I’ve only missed 1-2 times during the years that I have been here in Madison. I look forward to it.”
Women in Focus and the I Have a Dream Ball takes center stage on Saturday night and on Sunday morning, the Urban League will host 600-800 people at its King
Breakfast held at Edgewood High School when the Outstanding Young Person Awards are handed out.
On Sunday afternoon, the King Coalition continues its celebration.
“On Sunday, the King Coalition will host its annual Martin Luther King Ecumenical Service,” Lee said. “This year, it will be at Lake Edge Lutheran Church on Monona
Drive through a partnership between Lake Edge Church and Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church. There will be a variety of different representatives from different
churches and faith backgrounds who will speak at that event. That starts at 4:30 p.m. as well. There is no cost to attend and it is open to everyone.”
The Ecumenical Service is a way for the King Holiday to honor its roots.
“When we really talk about the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observance, we need to be mindful that part of the whole Civil Rights Movement was really within the
context of providing support to people to speak out and organize, in terms of demonstrations in order to get local, state and federal governments to change and
eventually for there to be laws on the books, a lot of that started within the church,” Hawkins said. “And it happened not only in the Black church. It was inclusive.
One of the things that Dr. King really did is whether you were Christian or not, the Movement, the whole notion of human rights, really affected all of us and so we
needed to work together and come together. When you think about the March on Washington, which occurred in 1963, the speakers were an ecumenical group. You
had people from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities. You had people from the unions. That was really a community of people who came together to
organize the March on Washington. And it really represented an ecumenical group of people. And so, I think this is the way of really reflecting on not only on what Dr.
King did, but also on what the community at-large did to try to address equity, civil rights and human rights in this country.”
For over a decade, the King Coalition sponsored the Youth Day of Service where middle and high school students would come together at the Wisconsin Institutes
for Discovery and attend workshops before heading out into the community to perform community service.
After a couple of years’ hiatus, a new youth event will be occurring on Monday.
“It’s a Youth Call to Service event that will be at the newly-remodeled Madison Municipal Building on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.,” Lee said. “It starts at 12:30 p.m.
There will be a variety of different workshops on topics related to volunteerism and community service and the history of the Civil Rights history and Martin Luther
King Jr. That will end with a march down to the Overture Center at 5 p.m. The young people will be able to join in singing the freedom songs.”
By Jonathan Gramling
For about 30 years, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund built a foundation of case law meant
to overturn the Plessey vs. Ferguson decision in 1896 that ushered in the era of
segregation and Jim Crow. It all came to a head in 1954 when Thurgood Marshall and his
legal team argued to overturn “Separate but Equal” through Brown vs. Board of
Education before the U.S. Supreme Court and won.
It was this decision that ushered in the modern Civil Rights Movement with the
Montgomery Bus Boycott and the rise of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a national civil
rights leader the following year. Since he believed in the law — and believed that all
Americans did too — Thurgood Marshall felt that desegregation would only take a few
years to implement.
“That was very optimistic on Thurgood Marshall’s part at that particular time,” said Dr.
Gloria Hawkins, co-chair of the King Coalition. “He later on realized that his assumption
And of course, the King Holiday ends with the traditional observance at the
“At 5 p.m. on Monday, the 34th Annual City-County King Holiday
Observance begins. “Tamara Stanley will be leading the sing along in the
Overture Rotunda. At 6 p.m., the program will start in the Capitol Theater.
Our theme id Brown vs. Board of Education: The Legacy Continues. And
our keynote speaker is Cheryl Brown Henderson who is one of three
children of the late Rev. Oliver Brown who filed the suit that eventually
became the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision. She has
gone on to a distinguished career as an educational opportunity advocate
and civil rights educator over the years. We are really excited to have her
come to Madison and share her personal experience and journey as well
as her perspective on that theme. Where have we come from and where
do we need to go from here.”
In addition to Henderson’s speech, there will be the traditional elements of
the event that make it so special.
“Leotha and Tamara Stanley will lead the Martin Luther King Jr. Community
Choir again,” Lee said. “The Madison mayor and Dane County Executive
will present the city and county Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian
Awards. There will be a Call to Action. And this year’s program will be a
tribute and memorial to Mercile Lee, one of the founding members of the
King Coalition who passed away recently. It will be a special ceremony, a
special event in a lot of different ways. Mercile left a huge mark on this
community in so many different ways through her work with the King
Coalition, through her work with the students at the university and through
her other community activities over the years. She volunteered and
served extensively with the Urban League and other community
organizations. It will be a bittersweet moment. It’s wonderful that the King
Coalition will be able to use this year’s opportunity to remember her legacy
a little bit. It’s sad and painful to think that she is not here anymore.”
Mercile Lee will be there in spirit, smiling down on the proceedings from