‘Overcoming the pandemic of racism’
The convergence of two public health crises – Covid and the continuing impacts of racism – took center stage at MSU Denver's annual event celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. PLUS: Marade photo gallery
The 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Breakfast took place Friday against the backdrop of sobering health statistics: Adjusted for age, national Covid hospitalization rates in Black communities are 2.6 times that of their White counterparts, with a death rate of nearly twice that. Similar or greater disparities exist among census-defined Hispanic and American Indian/Alaskan populations as well.
Social determinants of health were front and center at the event, an annual tradition at Metropolitan State University of Denver since 1992. The theme of this year’s celebration, held in the Tivoli Student Union, was “Overcoming the Pandemic of Racism.”
“I call this the ‘X-ray vision’ virus, since it’s shown us everything about everyone in every system, in real-time,” said keynote speaker Jeff Fard (better known ‘brother jeff’). “We can wash our hands and wear masks to fight Covid, but what are our instructions to fight racism?”
RELATED: Public health crises converge
A longtime public health advocate, Fard spoke of his time as an orderly at Denver’s Mercy Hospital in the midst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, noting the stigmatization of affected groups including “homosexuals, Haitians and hemophiliacs…considered ‘disposable populations.’”
Fard also called upon the need to adopt intersectional lenses to address systemic failure, and he noted the critical role that educators, such as those being honored, have in continuing the work of the marquee event’s namesake throughout the year.
“History is not dead facts of the past,” Fard said. “What happened five minutes ago affects what happens five minutes from now. What happened 50 years ago affects what happens 50 years from now.”
“You and I are responsible for creating the world we want to live in,” he added. “Let’s overcome this pandemic even though we know there’s no mask for it.”
MLK Peace Award winners
MSU Denver honors individuals who keep Martin Luther King, Jr.’s spirit and dream alive through their contributions to peace, justice, diversity, equality and social change.
Winners of the MLK Peace Award include faculty, staff and community members (with acceptance quotes) include:
“The seeds (Dr. Pauli Murray, advocate for the incorporation of “sex” as a protected category into the Civil Rights Act of 1965) planted continue to blossom… And though it may never bear fruit in our lifetime, may we carry the courage of our family and ancestors – and never stop planting.”
Ally Garcia, Ed.D. – Assistant Dean/Director, MSU Denver TRIO Student Support Services
“I am one of … so many committed to the work of racial justice. It’s difficult… but looking at my son and daughter makes it worthwhile to come here and continue to give.”
“This theme – of overcoming the pandemic of racism – is powerful… Everyone is going to hear about Dr. King, but let’s keep carrying this idea throughout the year, throughout the nation.”
Rosalind “Bee” Harris – Owner/Publisher/Art Director, Denver Urban Spectrum
“We do this work for all the students we serve – I am honored and grateful.”
Soj Sirivanchai, M.S. – Retention and Success Advisor, MSU Denver’s Gender Institute for Teaching and Advocacy