Ames community comes together for MLK Day event


The program for the annual MLK Day community birthday celebration featured a high energy performance by the Ames High Step Team.

Logan Metzger

Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day celebrates the life and legacy of a Civil Rights leader and the community service he strived for.

There are no classes, and university offices are closed on the holiday, Monday. However, the annual MLK Day community birthday celebration took place that evening in the Ames Middle School auditorium.

The celebration began with MLK birthday cake during a social time from 6 to 6:30 p.m., with music by the Ames High School Jazz Band I.

During this time, the cafeteria of the Ames Middle School quickly filled with Ames residents of all ages. Over 200 people filled the cafeteria.

A program followed the social time from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Ames Middle School auditorium, where Vanessa Baker-Latimer, housing coordinator for the planning department for the City of Ames, served as the M.C. Over 600 people filled the auditorium.

“2020 marks the 52nd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, and although his death was tragic and violent, he left us a great non-violent legacy in which to strive to bring together communities,” Baker-Latimer said.

The main part of the program was the 2020 keynote speaker for the event, which was Reginald Stewart, Iowa State’s vice president for diversity and inclusion.

Stewart started his keynote by asking the audience to keep the “power of choice” in mind throughout.

“Choice is the fundamental thing that Dr. King gave us,” Stewart said. “For a lot of us, the world right now is very, very hard. But this power to make a choice is something no one can take from you. So ask yourself this, what motivates you? What makes you ignore the haters and believe in yourself?”

Toward the end of his keynote, Stewart talked directly to the audience and asked three specific groups to do specific things.

“Children, I am going to talk to you first,” Stewart said. “Perhaps the most important choice as a child that you can make is who you are friends with. You should choose the friends who believe in you; you should choose your friends who are positive and uplifting.”

Stewart then spoke to educators and asked them to switch the term “at risk” to “at promise” because everyone has a choice of seeing their children “at risk” or “at promise,” and believing in them is more important.

“For the rest of us, nobody knows what you are inside, and if you don’t believe, nobody else will,” Stewart said. “You owe it to Dr. King to try, and more importantly, you owe it to yourself to try.”

Linda Murken, chair of Story County Board of Supervisors, and John Haila, mayor of the City of Ames, also spoke at the celebration.

Murken brought up multiple points about how people shy away from serving their community, such as thinking that they are not worthy of helping or have nothing worth providing, and countered those points by using quotes from King.

“One of the values that Dr. King held was that of selflessness,” Haila said. “He said, and I quote, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ So to honor Dr. King’s memory and with a view of making Ames a more friendly and richer community, I ask, what are each of us doing for others? How can we learn what they need and how can we find out?”

The Human Relations Commission presented its annual Humanitarian Award to Janet Hopper, Ames resident and former Roland-Story High School counselor.

“Each MLK Day, we celebrate the winner of the Human Relations Commission Humanitarian Award,” said Jill Crosser, member of the Human Relations Commission. “This year’s award is Janet Hopper. Janet, as a former Roland-Story High School counselor, has gone above and beyond to support her students; her nominator also indicated that she has adopted families in need by helping to provide groceries, gas, clothing and support in other ways.”

The program also featured a high energy performance by the Ames High Step Team, a singing performance by Meeker Elementary students who sang “Martin Luther King” and other musical selections, a short video from the Volunteer Center of Story County and an original performance by Peter Thompson, sixth-grade band teacher for the Ames Middle School, and Abdul Muhammad.