Toledo Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



On January 17th, the University of Toledo, city of Toledo and the Human Relations Commission hosted the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Day celebration. The 21st annual celebration, held virtually due to COVID-19, was themed “Everyday Activism”. Local notable speakers included: Alexis Means, of 13abc News, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of Ohio’s 9th District and Senator Sherrod Brown and Erin Baker, Chair for the city of Toledo’s Human Relations Commission. 

The featured Keynote speaker was Andre Gaines, a Toledo native who currently resides in Los Angeles, California with his wife and 2 sons. Gaines is a renowned producer who collaborated with many black Hollywood A-listers to produce a documentary on the late Dick Gregory. Mr. Gregory was an American comedian, civil rights and vegetarian activist, and many of his writings became best sellers.​Gaines mostly provided his perspective on what Gregory meant to the civil rights movement. He also shared his opinions of 1960’s civil rights activism and provided examples of what he feels the movements and initiatives are today. “What made Dick Gregory a trailblazer is that he gave many comedians courage. He took social commentary of that day and made it funny. He gave others the courage to speak up and follow suit; to make things funny yet incorporate what was really happening as well. I feel he (Gregory) is compared to Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and Kevin Hart. We should thank him for his gift of courage. It was revolutionary during that time.” Gaines also made a parallel in providing an example of Kevin Hart to Gregory. He stated, “The equivalent of Dick Gregory today would be like Kevin Hart leaving his millions in the bank and deciding to pursue activism with the Black Lives Matter movement."

Gaines also mentioned that as Americans we all must not forget the not so pleasant truth. History & main objective of the formation of the police from hundreds of years ago was to capture runaway slaves and return them to their masters. He says that while the nature and objective of the police have since changed & evolved, he is happy that black and brown men and women are police officers, some second and third generation officers who proudly serve. His hope is that they are consciously working while on the job to prevent unlawful violence and death of other black and brown people while they honor their commitment to protect and serve. Prior to the presentation Gaines was awarded a key to the City of Toledo from Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz. ​

The 90-minute celebration concluded with Gaines encouraging viewers to live activism by supporting the Toledo community; having important conversations with colleagues, friends, and family regarding ways to ensure that equality exists for everyone.  

In addition to Mr. Gaines' keynote, the celebration featured performances by MADD Poets Society, Toledo Opera’s mezzo soprano Olivia Johnson and soprano Ivana Butler, and the Scott High School Choir and the University of Toledo F.I.R.E Squad Dance Team.

The program can be restreamed by visiting:

​​​Special thanks to guest blogger, Emily Mays, Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.