By Harold C. Ford
“The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important.” reads a quote on the banner hung at the entrance to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Garden, MLK Day event, Jan. 18, 2021
On Jan. 18, a small but spirited group, led by local members of the Davison-based Louhelen Baha’i Center of Learning, celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day at a garden and new mural dedicated to King on Flint’s north side.
“We wanted to participate with the community and community members in celebrating his legacy,” explained Cam Herth, administrator at the Louhelen center.
Celebrants gathered for prayer, song, and amplified speeches of King at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Garden located on M. L. King Ave. between McClellan St. and Genesee St. The entourage then walked one block north to the new I Have a Dream mural that blankets the two-story exterior wall of the old Gil-Roy’s Hardware Store on King Ave. at W. Dewey St.
“I wanted to do prayers with our Baha’i community and also to celebrate Martin Luther King Day with Milo,” Louhelen member Jessica Dean explained. Milo is Dean’s three-year-old son. Dean said the event provided an opportunity to pay homage to the values of “unity, equality, love and acceptance, and race amity.”
“What moved me…(was) that dream of Martin Luther King (which) lives on,” said Fred Kester, a Baha’i member since 1975. “God willing, it’ll live on for generations to come until the time when we can all march together as brothers and sisters.”
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Garden consists of 10 vacant lots owned by the Genesee County Land Bank and private owners that has been redeveloped and maintained, according to information provided by its sponsor, King Avenue PLUS, a Flint neighborhood association.
Led by PLUS member Barbara Culp, development of the project began in 2017 with design and horticultural assistance from Ruth Mott Foundation and its Applewood Estate staff. Culp was inspired by visits to other peace gardens and monuments.
According to local publication Flintside, “Charles Stewart Mott foundation funded a BRAND grant from Habitat for Humanity to make the Garden happen, Genesee County Land Bank arranged the lease, and Neighborhood Engagement Hub gave the project support, including the know-how to work the equipment.” Assistance was also provided by the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.
I Have a Dream mural
The I Have a Dream mural, a 2020 creation of artist Kevin Burdick, is based on a photo of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March. It features King, Ralph Abernathy, James Forman, Jesse Douglas, and John Lewis locked arm-in-arm at the front of that march.
Burdick completed the mural in Oct. 2020. It is located across the street from the Neighborhood Engagement Hub at 3216 M. L. King Ave. in Flint.
“It (the mural) probably speaks to us in very different ways…perhaps a memory, perhaps a wish, perhaps a fear, perhaps a dream…perhaps a commitment to lifting up Flint and the United States to a place that is strong and always inclusive,” Jane Richardson writes in the Jan. 2021 issue of Flint Our Community Our Voice.
EVM reporter, Harold Ford, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.