Children, adults keep Martin Luther King’s hope alive at event
JANESVILLE High school student Melissa Rhoades is keeping the dream alive by repeating Dr. King’s words.
The children of Burdge Traveling Troup are keeping the dream alive by singing.
The unbearably cute Jared Lemmer, 5, is keeping the dream alive by break dancing.
And Bob Baldwin is keeping the dream alive by speaking frankly about race and racism to children and adults.
Baldwin, diversity specialist with the Janesville School District, received the YWCA Freedom With Peace Award on Saturday at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration at Blackhawk Technical College.
The award is a combination of the Martin Luther King Service Award and YWCA Peace Award given at previous events.
Baldwin said he feels led to continue the work started by King and other civil rights leaders.
He works with schools and other organizations as a diversity consultant and member of the Rock County Diversity Action Team.
“It’s tireless work; oftentimes it’s thankless work,” he said after the ceremony. “But it is rewarding when those lights go on.”
Saturday’s event showed Rock County has made progress in addressing race relations. County board member Anna Marie Johnson and Janesville and Beloit teens unveiled a sign that will mark a stretch of County G as “Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Highway.”
The sign will stand at the southern border of Janesville, and another will mark the northern border of Beloit.
Jose Carrillo and Neil Deupree started the effort to rename part of the highway in 2005, but it took until 2009 for the county board to approve it. Members of the human relations clubs at Beloit Memorial, Craig and Parker high schools helped raise money for the signs.
“This is our future right here,” Johnson said, indicating the students.
Tracy Douglas, Harmony Township, said Rock County has come a long way since she left her hometown of Milton for New York 20 years ago.
“One of the reasons I left is racism, so to come back and be able to be a part of this is great,” said Douglas, who is part Filipina. She returned to the area in 2009.
But the community still has far to go, Baldwin said.
“Although we talk about equality, we have never been equal,” he said.
Baldwin is working with the Diversity Action Team to start a program called Courageous Conversations About Race, he said. It will train people to address the topic of racism head-on.
“It takes great courage to stand up to something that has been around since the institution of this country,” he said.