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Honoring Martin Luther King’s Legacy at Home and Abroad

“Whatever we do should be done in a spirit of international brotherhood, not national selfishness.” Dr. Martin Luther King.

In collaboration with the DC Black History Celebration Committee, the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) honored Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy on the 55th anniversary of his assassination on Friday, April 14, 2033, at the Burns Auditorium of the State Department. This program highlighted the timeless nature of Dr. King’s legacy at home and abroad. As we all know about Dr. King’s role in domestic civil rights, this program intended to focus on what is less known about his efforts to organize around international affairs. With over twenty embassies and more nationalities present, AAFSW commemorated Dr. King’s effort as a global leader and his deep respect and understanding of international cooperation. 

Sheila Switzer – AAFSW Program Chair, Beth Akiyama – Volunteer Embassy Liaison for the D.C. Black History Celebration Committee, Jan Du Plain and Latonya Kyler – Co-Chair proudly conducted the program and engaged the distinguished speakers and rightfully mesmerized guests. Civil and human rights leaders, advocates, diplomats, officials, and youth, all representing people from around the world, read selected excerpts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s moving and inspiring speeches. Beth Akiyama – Volunteer Embassy Liaison for the D.C. Black History Celebration Committee, launched the program reminding the audience: “It is important to know that Black history is everyone’s history. It is American history. It is world history.” 


Charles “Chuck” Hicks – Founder & Chair of the D.C. Black History Celebration Committee, then shared his personal experience with Dr. King. Mr. Hicks is the Founder and Director of the DC Black History Celebration Committee which celebrates black history year-round.  A community activist focusing on issues that directly affect the DC community, he serves on several Martin Luther King committees providing guidance, leadership, and support.  His work includes serving on the executive committee of the Martin Luther King Support Group and the MLK Scholarship Committee and co-chairing the DC Host committee for the dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial.  Chuck chose an excerpt from Drum Major Speech “I like this particular reading because it talks about what we as individuals can do, and Dr. King had a wonderful way in his speeches of making things visible. He made you see things; made you feel things:

If I can help somebody as I pass along If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,

If I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong,

Then my living will not be in vain.

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,

If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,

If I can spread the message as the master taught,

Then my living will not be in vain.”

Dr. Frank Smith – Founder & Executive Director of African American Civil War Museums, a civil rights activist, and politician in Washington, D.C., is most recognized as the first person associated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to be sent to Mississippi to register voters. Decades after he left the South, Dr. Smith helped establish the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum in Washington, D.C., which honors the war’s 209,000 black fighters. As the only national memorial that honors the colored troops who fought in the Civil War, it is one of the most unique memorials in the nation’s capital. Dr. Smith shared the words Dr. King shared with him: “Those are his words that I want to leave with you today. From his mouth to your ears: ‘Don’t ever hang up your marching shoes. As long as there are people being denied the right to vote in this country and in your country, don’t hang up your marching shoes.” 

Azhar Haq – President of the D.C. Chapter of Youth for Human Rights International said that Dr. King, the iconic civil rights leader, stated ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Dr. King believed that human rights are interconnected and that every violation of human rights is a threat to the overall fabric of justice and equality in society. “Dr. King’s legacy has been the inspiration in my life to give back to the community and to contribute what I can to help create a better, more tolerant with my Youth for Human Rights Washington D.C. team.” 


Isabelle Vladoiu – Founder of the U.S. Institute of Diplomacy and Human Rights, an International Human Rights Law Specialist, and the founder of the US Institute of Diplomacy and Human Rights, for more than a decade working in human rights education, she has trained more than 15,000 people. Her expertise has been shared with individuals, policymakers in Congress, government officials, and leaders of international organizations.

In 2018, the President of the United States of America awarded her the coveted award, the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Ms. Vladoiu reminded the attendees that “You do not have to wait for governments, for the UN, for UNICEF, for any other person in your life to do something that you could do. And I know I speak to many of you here who are already doing that. That’s what Dr. Martin Luther King did.” She then stated Dr. King: “Let’s go back to the basic meaning of human rights. Let’s get more educated on the thirty human rights and articles in the Universal Declaration. Let’s not invent new rights without knowing the basic human rights.”


Brett Fuller – Chairman of 22:30 A House for the Nations, currently serving as the chaplain of the Washington Football Team, also coordinates relational and professional development seminars, helping leaders in every walk of life to become better leaders. He also serves on the North American Leadership Team for Every Nation Churches & Ministries. From 2005-2014 he served as chaplain for the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Also, from 2007-2009 he served on President George Bush’s Advisory Board for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Mr. Fuller remembered Martin Luther King as his hero, as a man who as his occupational life surrounded ecclesiology decided to make an impact in the world sociologically, not sacrificing his faith to do so. He stated Dr. King: “Justice is really important, but he never stopped at justice. Justice only satisfies the need to bring consequences to the offender. It doesn’t make the offender a friend of the offended. My job is to figure out how to make my adversaries my advocates. How can I make my enemies my friends? This is where healing happens, not justice.” 


Alla Rogers – Director of the Global Peace Education Network, International Liaison, an art specialist, and artist for the past 40 years in Washington DC, provides art consulting services to collectors, interior designers, and architects as well as hotels and corporations. Ms. Rogers served as President of The Washington Art Dealers Association and is currently Director of Art and Cultural Impact Programs for Global Peace Education Network, a UNESCO partner. Alla praised Dr. King as a champion of human dignity for every human being on the face of the Earth. She reiterated that in Ukraine and elsewhere, the defenseless have no power. “Martin Luther King viewed oppression through a global lens, and that’s something that I don’t think the mainstream American public is truly aware of.“

E.  Hilda Suka-Mafudze, Ambassador of the African Union (AU), representing fifty-five African countries since 2021, reiterated her staunch commitment to democracy and the will of the people, and working fastidiously with the 55 AU member countries to promote and deepen democracy and democratic elections on the African continent. H. E.  Hilda Suka-Mafudze is an influential voice committed to ensuring the rule of law to better serve the interests of the poor and other marginalized groups – women, youth, the elder, and children. H. E.  Hilda Suka-Mafudze concluded the program brilliantly saying: “The Civil Rights Movement undoubtedly falls within a legacy of American resistance, but it also glanced across the Atlantic for inspiration. Civil rights activists were profoundly affected by decolonization in Africa.” 


This program honored Dr. King, who once said: “Whatever we do, should be done in a spirit of international brotherhood, not national selfishness.” This is what AAFSW’s members and friends achieved over a few hours.


As always, thank you for your support.


Celine Erickson, AAFSW President