Reflection for MLK Day 2024 – by Jim Perry
WI Green Fire, January 15, 2024
How Dr. King Inspires Our Work at Wisconsin’s Green Fire
A note from Carolyn Pralle, WGF Communications Coordinator:
As we commemorate MLK day on January 15th, 2024, Board Vice President of Wisconsin’s Green Fire (WGF), Jim Perry reflects on his connection to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and how Dr. King’s work influences our efforts at Wisconsin’s Green Fire.
In 1967, when Jim was student body president at UW-Marathon County, he organized a visit and speech from Dr. King. During that speech in Wausau, Dr. King spoke on civil rights and racial justice in America, the War in Vietnam, and more to an audience of about 1,100 students and community members.
by Jim Perry, Board Vice President, Wisconsin’s Green Fire
Dr. King’s visit to Wausau and UW-Marathon County in 1967 might be considered a foreshadowing of WGF’s efforts in the 2020s. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) was not in the 1960s lexicon, nor likely in the minds of most Central Wisconsin residents. I was a 17-year-old college freshman, most certainly living in the comfortable silo of racial homogeneity. Dr. King’s message brought a real face to the inequality that existed, for me mostly in the newspapers and on nightly TV. That spring day began a life-long journey of personal awareness development and has shaped my world view.
WGF has made it a priority to recognize the need for inclusivity, of respect for the concerns and welfare of all people, regardless of their skin color, their ethnic origin or any other of the host of factors with which we identify. The struggles that Dr. King addressed more than half a century ago have not vanished. WGF continues to struggle in answering DEIJ with the natural resources. But I’m proud to be part of an organization willing to confront them. That’s living the words and philosophy of Dr. King, “that all life is interrelated…tied into a single garment of destiny,” and we all deserve to live with clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment.
We all have heroes who have shaped our life philosophy. Often, they are individuals we have never met. But, I was privileged to have shared real moments with one of mine.
Photos included here were provided by Jim Perry, including photos by Michael Kleinschmidt, then-photographer for the UW-Marathon County student newspaper, later published in the Wausau Daily Record-Herald.
Learn More about Wisconsin’s Green Fire and DEIJ:
- Read about some of WGF’s work related to diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) here.
- Join us at the bimonthly meetings of the DEIJ Community of Practice for Wisconsin Conservation. Wisconsin’s Green Fire is a Participating Organization.