UC and UC Health Remember MLK Day with Speeches, Song and Ceremony

UC Health and University of Cincinnati College of Medicine remembered the life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with speeches, song and dance during a special ceremony Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, in Kresge Auditorium.

The Honorable Fanon Rucker, a municipal judge serving Hamilton County since 2007 and a UC College of Law alumnus, presented a keynote address for the event, which included welcoming remarks from William Ball, MD, dean of the College of Medicine, and a videotaped presentation from Richard Lofgren, MD, president and CEO of UC Health. 

Dolores Lindsay, president and CEO of the Healthcare Connection, was presented a Humanitarian Award while special recognition was also offered to the Baptist Ministers Conference of Cincinnati for its social justice work. Choirs from Rockdale Academy and UC African-American Cultural and Resource Center presented musical and dance tributes honoring Dr. King.

Dean Ball said we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through a holiday but the issues that he called attention to take no holiday.

“One of his most notable quotes was about health care,” said Ball. “He indicated that in all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane considering the full purpose of healthcare is to help our fellow man. We recognize we have much to do today. Health care disparities still exist. We can’t turn our back on them. We can’t act as if it doesn’t exist, but we also have to recognize that the responsibility in correcting health care disparities doesn’t just lay with the person on your left and our your right. It falls squarely in your lap as well, all of us working together make the difference that Dr. King sought.

“The difference that he made in all our lives placed in us the recognition that we also have the capabilities to make change. As we go through the discourse and problems of our health care we have to recognize that health care is a right that every American, that everyone in the world has a right to good health care and that we have the capacity to be able to make that difference and that change. I hope this is not only a celebration of Dr. King but a renewed call to action. This is our responsibility and our legacy as a nation, as a community is in fact to seek out those disparities and eliminate them.”

The keynote by Rucker echoed similar themes, as he recounted the circumstances for King’s imprisonment which produced his famed “Letter from Birmingham Jail” written in April 1963. The now-celebrated document shows King’s frustrations after the civil rights leader and his associates including the Rev. Ralph Abernathy and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth led a Good Friday demonstration against racial segregation and discrimination in Birmingham, Alabama, despite a court order barring the non-violent protests. Shuttlesworth has a Cincinnati tie, moving from Alabama to the Queen City in the early 1960s to continue his work for social justice and pastor Revelation Baptist Church in Over-the-Rhine and later Greater Light Baptist Church in Avondale.

“Why did he ignore this law?” asks Rucker of King.

King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were having some success in the South fighting segregation through of sit-ins, boycotts and marches, explained Rucker. The opposition looked for a way to stop this momentum since threats weren’t doing the job. They sought to convince the local judiciary to intervene with a court order to stop the march.



“This part of lecture always causes me to reflect on my position as a judge and it raises to me the question, if I were a judge in 1963 and notwithstanding the relationships and progress we have seen in our courts in the past 50 years, if I had been one of those judges and some of the local officials had come into my chambers and said, ‘we have got these agitators, these folks coming in and they are going to disrupt this place, we need you to issue an order preventing them from marching.’

“I want to believe that I would say immediately, ‘I don’t play those games.’ But I have to reflect on what exactly I would have done in that same situation. It’s also a point of consideration for each of us,” said Rucker.

The judge in Birmingham barred the march just two days before it was scheduled to occur.

“Instead of breaking the strength of the movement, the organizers met at a church and the marchers were told what was going on and they were told we need to march and to disregard this order,” said Rucker. “They marched in violation of a court order. They were arrested. While in jail being roughed up and abused and laying on that concert slab jail cell floor someone passed Dr. King and editorial with it about Dr. King and the marchers.”

“The editorial was from a group of local white religious leaders saying Dr. King and these out of town folks were agitators and disruptive to the good peace loving people in Birmingham,” said Rucker. “So Dr. King started writing and he wrote a lot.”

Rucker asked his audience to read King’s letter in its entirety but also suggested three takeaways for his listeners. The first is to acknowledge the value of reading reflection, especially during an age of technology, explained Rucker.

“Even though he had no books and no essays to quote, Dr. King’s reflexive memory of those pieces he read before he was in jail were able to provide context and depth to his greater experience and the words that he wrote while he was there.”

Another lesson is for us to be aware of ability to impact to a significant degree the present and future lives of those around us and some we many never meet, explained Rucker. “It’s an obvious declaration but one accentuated by the fact today we are celebrating MLK for all that he did but also for Dolores Lindsay who impacted countless number of citizens she will never come into contact with.”

Lindsay’s leadership of the Healthcare Connection, helped bring health care to thousands of Tristate residents in Lincoln Heights, Mount Healthy and Forest Park, with the establishment of family health centers.

“Find a cause to be passionate about and labor in that position,” said Rucker. “You never know what fruit that seeds will bear in the future. If it means something to you it will be worth it.”

Finally, Rucker said Dr. King’s struggles, even his incarceration, proved that temporary roadblocks do not have to become permanent obstructions.

“What if Rev. King. Rev. Shuttlesworth and Dr. Abernathy had thrown up their hands and given up when that local judge had said don’t march. There would not be ‘A Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ for us to reflect on today. What if my high school guidance counselor who told me I shouldn’t waste my time going to college, if I had changed my plans and not gone to college or law school?

“What if when Mrs. Lindsay was told, ‘you want a health system in Lincoln Heights it will never work’ she had thrown up her hands and said I give up. What if when this young black senator out of Chicago told his intentions to run for the most powerful influential position in the world had abandoned his plans and he was told repeatedly, ‘you want to do what…it will never happen,’” said Rucker, referring to President Barack Obama.

“What if in your own life when you encounter a roadblock, a temporary setback, an obstruction you let it keep you from achieving something incredibly important to you and others who could have benefited from it?” said Rucker. “Aren’t you glad temporary roadblocks don’t have to be permanent ones?”

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