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MLK Foundation Celebrates Diversity

Organization welcomes member of Tuskeegee Airmen.

From left, Dudley Johnson, Reston founder Robert Simon, Jennifer Johnson, Hiram Mann, a member of the Tuskeegee Airmen, Tom Wilkins and Chuck Smith at the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Foundation’s celebration at Herndon’s ArtSpace Saturday, Jan. 26.

From left, Dudley Johnson, Reston founder Robert Simon, Jennifer Johnson, Hiram Mann, a member of the Tuskeegee Airmen, Tom Wilkins and Chuck Smith at the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Foundation’s celebration at Herndon’s ArtSpace Saturday, Jan. 26. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

The Martin Luther King Cultural Foundaion hosted a celebration of cultural diversity Saturday, Jan. 26, at ArtSpace in Herndon. The Reston-based organization provides thousands of dollars per year to send local students to college.

“Our foundation exists to work toward Dr. King’s interpretation of community, and we’re committed to the idea that through education young people will one day grow up to fulfill Dr. King’s dream,” said

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From left, Tom Wilkins, a founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Foundation, Jennifer Johnson and Robert Simon, founder of Reston, at the MLK foundation’s celebration of cultural diversity Saturday, Jan. 26.

Myrtle Gallow, president of the foundation. “It hurts to think of the young people in this community, who are able to make their grades and get into college, but they just can’t get a ticket to pay for it. That’s a problem we can help them take care of.”

The foundation gave out $4,000 scholarships to 15 students last year, and Gallow said they are always trying to increase that amount. She said their goal is to be able to give $8,000 scholarships, which is the average amount it takes to get a two-year degree from a community college.

Board member Cesar Del Aguila said that the foundation is one of the most “just and honorable efforts” he had ever been a part of.

“This organization is all about giving opportunity to those who might not otherwise get one,” he said.

The celebration also welcomed Hiram Man, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force and member of the original Tuskeegee Airmen, the first African- American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces.

Mann, who was part of the 332nd Fighter Group, one of two groups that make up the Tuskeegee Airmen, flew 48 combat missions during World War II, sustaining only minor shrapnel and bullet damage to his P51-D Mustang.

He said he thought it was especially important to appear with a foundation that prioritized education. After his active duty career, he was an admissions counselor at the Air Force Academy.

“I had the privilege of seeing the military pre-integration, during integration, and post-integration, and

it was the biggest change I saw in my time in the military,” he said. “I can still remember the first time I had a white roommate.”

He recalled a study conducted in 1925 by the Army War College, which referred to African-Americans as “a race that has not developed leadership qualities [and] his mental inferiority and weakness of character are factors that must be considered.”

“What makes me the proudest of what we were able to do is prove every single statement in that report false,” Mann said. “That contradicted a study by the Army’s war college, and was instrumental in making integration successful.”