Oakwood celebrates diversity on MLK Day

Photo courtesy of Oakwood Healthcare Inc.

The Singers of United Lands — Evgeny Sokolov (left) from Russia; My-Leen Formento, Philippines; Maria Quevedo, Guatemala; and John Kennedy, Ireland — opened and closed Oakwood’s Celebration of Diversity.

DEARBORN — With an eye on the past and hope for the future, officials from Oakwood Healthcare celebrated the diversity of the community and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.

The annual Celebration of Diversity, put on by the Oakwood Diversity Council, included inspirational songs and recognition of the winners of the Martin Luther King Day youth essay contest. It took place at the Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center and was broadcast to several other Oakwood sites.

“It’s a special day for all of us here,” said Doug Welday, executive vice president of Operations and division president of OHMC. He said that one of King’s most common messages, life in the service of others, is reflected in Oakwood’s mission statement and credo.

“Those that choose to work in health care, they do that so they can help each other during the most fragile and vulnerable moments of their lives,” Welday said. “The compassion and respect for our patients, no matter what their background or economic status, their beliefs — whatever their circumstances are — are powerful reasons why Oakwood is a great place to receive and deliver care.”

University of Michigan-Dearborn Chancellor Daniel Little, who teaches philosophy and sociology at the Dearborn and Ann Arbor campuses, was the keynote speaker of the event.

He reflected on the entirety of the Civil Rights movement, from Rosa Parks’ arrest that led to the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott through the riots and violence sparked by efforts to integrate throughout the next decade. Although much progress has been made, Little said more can still be done.

“We need renewed commitment and energy to make our society genuinely equal and democratic,” he said. “We’re not there yet.

“Oakwood Healthcare System is a partner in efforts to make our Detroit region more equitable. It is one of the things we can do to live out and further the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

The event also featured recognition of three youth essay contest winners, who were asked to reflect on the meaning of King’s remarks on the universality of justice.

Connor Lee Coogan, a third-grader at Linderman Elementary School in Allen Park, said he first learned of King from his first-grade teacher.

“I think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, wants us to be fair and just,” Coogan wrote. “We should be kind to all people that we meet each day.”

“We must stand together and always do what is right for our country. All nationalities and ethnic groups should be represented fairly and equally,” wrote Cayla Collins, an eighth-grader at Brace-Lederle K-8 School in Southfield.

The program opened and closed with performances by Singers of United Lands, a quartet of natives of Guatemala, Ireland, Philippines and Russia, whose repertoire includes folk and patriotic songs from each others’ countries. For the occasion, the performers learned and led the audience in singing the American anthems, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “We Shall Overcome.”

Oakwood employees also gathered clothes for the Oakwood Clothes Closets, which provide clean new clothing for needy patients at all Oakwood hospitals.