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UC honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with campus events

Celebrations ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day featured songs, speeches and awards

Diversity matters, especially in America’s newsrooms, says the president of one of the nation’s largest organizations representing journalists of color.

“Newsroom diversity or the lack thereof impacts the way news is shared and reported,” said Dorothy Tucker, president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). “The media plays the largest role in dictating how people of color are portrayed and plays a dominant role in perpetuating the stereotypes formed about African Americans which include our family make-up, our roles in society and our roles in the workplace.”

Xavier's Adam Clark speaks from podium in Tangeman University Center at UC.

Adam Clark, associate professor of theology at Xavier University, gave the keynote at the Jan. 16 MLK event hosted by UC's African American Cultural and Resource Center in UC's Tangeman University Center. His address was entitled "Reignite the Light."

Tucker delivered the keynote address at the annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration ceremony hosted by UC Health and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She spoke to an audience that filled Kresge Auditorium Friday, Jan. 17, to remember the legacy of the slain civil rights leader. A federal holiday for Dr. King will be observed by UC, which will close Monday, Jan. 20.

The Kresge ceremony comes on the heels of an event held Thursday, Jan. 16, hosted by UC's African American Cultural and Resource Center in Tangeman University Center. The celebration's theme, "Reignite the Light," was chosen to parallel a ceremonial flame to the positive messages of “light” that guided Dr. King’s work towards justice for all people. 

Adam Clark, PhD, associate professor of theology at Xavier University, delivered the keynote address in TUC. The program featured cultural performances, a special video tribute and the introduction of two new social justice awards.

Inclusive excellence drives UC's strategic plan, Next Lives Here, bridging each platform and pathway to others.

Dorothy Tucker, president of NABJ.

Dorothy Tucker, president of NABJ.

picture of a singer at the MLK Day ceremony

Songs as well as speeches helped remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Much of the Kresge MLK celebration looked at diversity, inclusion and equity in media. Three humanitarian awards were presented to three local journalists: Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, president of Sesh Communications; Courtis Fuller, anchor/reporter from WLWT-TV; and Lincoln Ware, host of the Lincoln Ware Show on radio station WBDZ. A special recognition award honoring diversity was also presented to Alexis Rogers, president of the Greater Cincinnati Association of Black Journalists and broadcaster for WLWT-TV.

Dr. Andrew Filak, dean of the UC College of Medicine, and Dr. Richard Lofgren, president and CEO of UC Health, offered greetings at the event and indicated their support for advancing diversity. P&G Voices of Destiny Ensemble and Rockdale Academy Choir offered music.

“This year our event theme comes from one of the more famous quotes from Dr. King,” said Lofgren. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

“You will hear it throughout our ceremony today,” Lofgren said. “At UC Health, the “things that matter” are integral to who we are as an academic health system. It’s why Inclusion is one of our core values. It’s a part of everything we do. We are intentional in our desire to grow our diversity and inclusion efforts — with our teams, our patients and our business partners — to ensure UC Health proudly reflects the communities we serve.”

Filak said that part of UC’s mission is to empower the next generation of leaders, explore new frontiers, and embolden our community to address the challenges of today and tomorrow.

“And as we do, we follow the lead set forth by Dr. King and carried on by the visionaries and trailblazers we celebrate today,” said Filak. “We will keep diversity, equity, inclusion and justice at the center of everything we do from the students we recruit as the physicians and biomedical scientists of tomorrow, to the research that identifies new treatments and cures.”

picture of three humanitarian award winners at MLK event with keynote speaker and master of ceremony

Courtis Fuller, Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, Dorothy Tucker, Lincoln Ware and the Honorable Fanon Rucker are shown in the UC College of Medicine. Kearney, Fuller and Ware received Humanitarian awards.

Tucker cited a 2018 American Society of News Editors Newsroom Employment Diversity Survey which showed people of color represent 22.6 percent of the workforce in America’s newsrooms and about 19 percent of newsroom managers.

“As America will become a majority minority country in just a few years, these numbers are too low and disappointing,” said Tucker. “Progress has come but it has been slow since the days of Dr. King. Our newsrooms and our companies must reflect the diverse people that they serve.”

She warned that without a place at the decision-making table positive images of black experts, leaders, educators, business owners or just everyday citizens will be overshadowed by reporting that relies on mug shots, often obtained through crime reporting, to depict the black community.

Tucker said NABJ is working to combat these issues through ongoing advocacy efforts with such programs such as our diversity institute and black media project.

She cited an example of a newspaper in Flint, Michigan that was found to be using very old mug shots for photos to represent a slate of African American candidates running for local office instead of their professional photos. The mug shots were photos from their youth and the result of minor crimes and not relevant to the news stories, Tucker said.

picture of Alexis Rogers at speaker podium with two of her colleagues

At the podium Alexis Rogers addresses the audience while Walter Smith-Randolph, a Local 12 broadcast journalist, and Ashlee Cook of the Greater Cincinnati Association of Black Journalists look on.

“As Dr. King taught us, equality and free treatment takes all of us working together to bring light to darkness, and I am proud to report that, thanks to the work of our local Flint-Saginaw NABJ chapter, time was taken to educate the editor and staff about what was wrong with these pictures and this approach.  As a result, the mug shots are no longer used as the centerpiece of the story,” said Tucker.

“At NABJ we thrive to educate all media companies about how to be mindful of all the words and images used depicting people of color,” said Tucker. “Sometimes it is intentional lack of sensitivity, but often these incidents occur because of the lack of knowledge and understanding. However, whether it is intentional or not, newsrooms must take responsibility in ensuring their reporting doesn’t further damage the communities they serve to how subjects are portrayed.”

Tucker also cited statistics from a report commissioned by Color of Change, a racial justice organization, and Family Story, an advocate of diverse family arrangements, showing discrepancies in what government data say about black families and how they are viewed by the media. Those findings were also reported by media, most notably the Washington Post.

The analysis indicates that black families represent 59 percent of the poor portrayed in media coverage but account for just 27 percent of American in poverty. Meanwhile, white families make up 17 percent of the poor depicted in media stories, but account for 66 percent of the American poor, the study said.

According to the study as reported by the Washington Post, black people are also nearly three times more likely than whites to be portrayed as dependent on welfare, the study showed. Black fathers were shown spending time with their kids almost half as often as white fathers. Blacks represent 37 percent of criminals shown in the news, but constitute 26 percent of those arrested on criminal charges, the study said. In contrast, news media portray whites as criminals 28 percent of the time, when FBI crime reports show they make up 77 percent of crime suspects.

“Coverage of our community as negative and positive can often represent how we are viewed by others in the world,” said Tucker. “We must be careful what we are projecting. These numbers reveal a lack of a commitment to equity and diversity in news coverage has helped defer Dr. King’s dream.”

picture of the audience at annual MLK event

Community members packed Kresge Auditorium for the 2019 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration sponsored by UC Health and the UC College of Medicine.

Tucker cited Dr. King who said an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all human beings.

“Experts have documented that diversity and inclusion not only create an atmosphere of acceptance and value among colleagues and neighbors but also are stimulants for productivity and creativity,” said Tucker.

She cited a study by Cloverpop that reports a direct link between workplace diversity and better decision making. Varied experiences equal varied solutions, said Tucker. Also, consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that companies with more diverse teams were more likely to outperform others on profitability.

“Companies are rethinking how they describe people of color and using terms that aligned with how the community identities,” said Tucker.

For example, how the word black has been used in reporting. Black was associated with things representing evil and other offensive items, but within black culture the term is being redefined to distinguish between color and culture, said Tucker.

She noted some news organizations are beginning to capitalize the word ‘Black’ when referring to a group of people or culture to ensure respect like any other racial identifier.

Tucker ended her address with a quote from Dr. King: “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable ... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle.”

Top photo: Student choir from Rockdale Academy performs at the annual MLK Day event in the UC College of Medicine.

All photos are by Ravenna Rutledge / UC Creative Services