46th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dinner

Hundreds of AFSCME members, community leaders, and allies gathered to honor and celebrate the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at AFSCME Council 25's 46th Annual Dinner to honor Dr. King's memory. 

“No other event compares to this very special evening which showcases what AFSCME and the civil rights movement mean to all workers and our families throughout the world” said President Lawrence A. Roehrig. The event highlights the intricate link between the struggles of the labor movement and the civil rights movement.

Fox 2 Detroit and WWJ 950 radio reporter Ingrid Kelley served as the Mistress of Ceremonies for the event alongside MLK Dinner Chairperson June Clark. a 26-year member of AFSCME Local 214. June has served on the MLK Dinner Committee since 1999.

After welcoming remarks and the invocation from Bishop Bernadel Jefferson from Faith Deliverance Center Church in Flint, guests listened to a speech from Jamal Ibn Ross Jr, the winner of this year's Young Orator Award. Jamal is a 2019 graduate of Ecorse Community High School and now attends Wayne County Community College with a plan to major in Nursing. Jamal's senior year was very challenging, as he originally attended Delta Prep Academy in Detroit. However, Delta Prep abruptly closed three weeks after the start of the school year, leaving students to quickly find new schools to attend. In spite of this, Jamal completed his senior year and continue to play football while also joining the Sigma Beta Club and participating in many programs at Second Baptist Church to promote community service. 

The special keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Gloria McKissic who shared her fascinating firsthand stories about working through segregation and the Jim Crow South. Dr. McKissic is a native of Detroit who enrolled at Tennessee State University (A&I at the time) in fall of 1961 and almost immediately joined with the Freedom Riders and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She continued her education with advanced studies at Wayne State University, University of Northern Colorado, and Wake Forest School of Law. In 1968 she was appointed one of the first black teachers in the court ordered integrated school system in Nashville. She has written and implemented extensive curriculum guides to teach MLK's philosophy of non-violence in our school system, has helped produce numerous documentaries, and won countless awards for her service. 

The committee also honored the late Congressman John D. Dingell and late Congressman John J. Conyers with Legends Awards for their lifetime of service and dedication to Civil Rights and American workers, a well-deserved honor for each. 

Several awards were presented by President Roehrig and Secretary-Treasurer Robyn C. Price to distinguished AFSCME members that have gone above and beyond to fight for fairness and equity in the workplace and in their communities. 

The Community Services Award was given to Donna Cangemi of AFSCME Local 411 (Macomb County). Donna is a mother of two and works as a Therapist at Macomb County Mental Health. She has served the Local and Council in some capacity since 1998 including as Chair of the Region 3 PEOPLE Committee, Council 25 executive board, Macomb Charter Committee, Women's Committee and much more. She has been President of Local 411 since 2001 and has worked diligently to advance the Local and Council's agenda on behalf of her members. Donna is known for sharing the importance of being an active union member wherever she goes and was vigilant in the fight against disgraced County Clerk Karen Spranger. 

The Gloria C. Cobbin PEOPLE Award went to Wanda Stewart. Wanda has been an active member of AFSCME Local 214 (Detroit Department of Transportation) since 2006, including serving as Vice President since 2011 and many other committees and union efforts. Wanda has attended many trainings across the union and has been a PEOPLE MVP since 2006 while actively working to sign her co-workers up. She is an emergency dispatcher with the Detroit Department of Transportation and a married mother of three. She is always trying to find ways to uplift and strengthen the members and employees of DDOT. 

The Distinguished Union Service Award was granted to Matthew J. Johnson. Matthew is the Secretary-Treasurer, Steward, and Communications Chair for AFSCME Local 1659 (Wayne County). He has a passion for fair labor practices, professionalism, and a welcoming attitude. In less than a year Matthew has been an effective and thorough steward, leaving no issue unturned and reestablishing effective communication with the entirety of the membership at his local. He leads by example as a father and entrepreneur outside of his work at the Wayne County Clerk's office. 

Reverend Mark L. Phillips was the recipient of this year's Posthumous Award. Mark was a true warrior always ready for battle. A native Detroiter, he graduated from Central High School and continued his education at Wayne State, receiving his degree in Labor Relations. Mark worked for the City of Detroit and later became Vice President and then President of Local 229 Street Maintenance. He served as Region 1 Vice President on the Council 25 executive board and on the Region 1 PEOPLE Committee. After his retirement, he was elected Vice President of Subchapter 98 City of Detroit Retirees and Treasurer of the Michigan AFSCME Retirees United Chapter 255. Mark was ordained in 1984 and was a Pastor at El Shaddai Christian Ministries. Mark marched picket lines and never quit fighting for the rights of all he served.

Finally, the President's AFSCME Strong Community Commitment Award  went to both Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley and State Representative Cynthia Neeley. Sheldon is a lifelong resident of Flint who spent 27 years working as an engineer for WJRT-12 in Flint and remains the local Communications Workers of America President. He worked as a counselor in Flint Community Schools and as CEO of the Flint Inner City Junior Golf League. In 2005 he was elected to City Council, becoming the first African American to represent the diverse 6th ward. He was re-elected in 2009 and 2013, and then elected as State Representative for the 34th District in 2014. He fought tirelessly on behalf of Flint residents during the water crisis, bringing in millions of dollars in aid. Mayor Neeley was elected Mayor of Flint in November 2019. Cynthia Neeley, Sheldon's wife, has been elected to fill his seat in the state legislature. They have been married since 1992 and have two children. Cynthia owns a small business called Make Me Over Salon in Flint and is an active member of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.

Congratulations to all AFSCME award winners on embodying the spirit of Dr. King in your commitment to good jobs, strong communities, and a fair and just society for all.

Photos of the event can be found on Dropbox here or on Facebook here.