Meet The Speakers

Dr. Annie McDaniel Abrams

Dr. Annie McDaniel Abrams

Civil Rights Activist, World Reknown Mentor and Community Leader

Dr. Annie Abrams is a living witness to the Civil Rights movement and a Civil Rights icon. She  is a mentor, retired educator and a political, social, civic, and community activist. She took an active role in community issues and became involved with the desegregation of Central High School in 1957.  She was also instrumental in renaming Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in Little Rock and coordinating the first observance of the King Holiday in 1986 on the state capitol steps.  


Eric Braeden

Eric Braeden

Legendary Star of Daytime's Longest Running Daytime Series, "The Young and The Restless"

"Everyone has a story"

In two decades of playing the magnetic, urbane and overwhelmingly charming Victor Newman, Eric Braeden has become daytime's most recognizable hero. The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. hosted the Emmy-Award winning actor and legendary star of daytime television’s “The Young and the Restless.” Thousands listened as Mr. Braeden tearfully shared his story as a German immigrant coming to the United States at 14.

Mr. Braeden emphasized that everyone has a story and spoke about how he admired the Civil Rights movement and Dr. King’s legacy and life.


Mr. Daryl Davis

Mr. Daryl Davis

"A Friend of the Ku Klux Klan"

You could say musician, author, lecturer, actor and race relations expert, Daryl Davis plays with fire, and that's more fact than fiction! As a musician, Daryl lit up the stage with  his crowd with his burnin' Boogie-Woogie piano. As a lecturer Mr. Davis  provided a thrilling, first-person account of a Black man's journey into the mindset of the Ku Klux Klan and discussed how several Klan members turned over their robes because of Mr. Davis’ influence.


Dr. Jocelyn  Elders

Dr. Jocelyn Elders

"Changing the face of medicine"

Dr. Joycelyn Elders is an American pediatrician and public health administrator. She was a vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the first African American appointed as Surgeon General of the United States. 


Arun Manilal Gandhi

Arun Manilal Gandhi

Grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, Champion of Nonviolence

GANDHI.  Few names in world history evoke such powerful images of integrity, courage, social harmony, and perhaps most of all - hope.  Arun Gandhi is a cultural treasure, offering

Firsthand insights into one of history’s most influential leaders.

Arun Gandhi carries within himself the same guiding principles as his grandfather, the legendary peace-maker and spiritual leader, Mohandas K. Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi.

Growing up in apartheid South Africa as a person of Indian heritage meant racial confrontations with both blacks and whites. As a young boy, Gandhi was beaten up by black youths for not being black and by white youths because he was not white. Filled with rage and plotting to avenge his beatings, he subscribed to Charles Atlas bodybuilding magazines so he would have the strength to fight back. When his parents discovered the reason for their 12-year-old

son’s sudden fascination with exercise, they decided that a visit to his grandfather in India was in order. What followed was an 18-month stay with one of the world’s great leaders that would give him the keys to the powerful philosophy of nonviolence, and help shape the foundation for his life’s work. It was a dangerous and exciting time, as Mahatma Gandhi was leading the people of India in their revolutionary, nonviolent struggle for independence from British rule.

 After leading successful projects for economic and social reform in India, Arun Gandhi came to the United States in 1987 to complete research for a comparative study on racism in America. In 1991, Gandhi and his late wife, Sunanda, founded the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, which is now headquartered at the University of Rochester,New York. The Institute’s mission is to foster understanding of nonviolence and how to put that philosophy to practical use through workshops, lectures, and community outreach programs.

 In 2007 Arun started the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute to build educational and training centers for children living in extreme poverty and being exploited by society. In 2013 Arun was invited to be on the Board of Legacy of Hope – Nelson Mandela's Children's Hospitals in Africa.

A speaker of international acclaim, Gandhi has spoken before hundreds of colleges and universities, and corporate and civic organizations. His unique talents and cross-cultural experiences have brought him before governmental, social, and educational audiences in countries all over the world. 


 Former Heavyweight Champion Roy  Jones, Jr.

Former Heavyweight Champion Roy Jones, Jr.

"Knock Out Bullying"

Roy Jones Jr. has captured numerous championships in the Middleweight, Super middleweight, Light heavyweight and Heavyweight divisions. He is the only boxer in history to start his career as a junior middleweight, and go on to win a heavyweight title. Jones addressed a capacity crowd of youth, telling his story of life in Florida as a troubled youth and how he was able to overcome obstacles through nonviolence.


Martin Luther King Jr. III

Martin Luther King Jr. III

Carrying the torch

Community activist, the eldest son and oldest living child of the late Dr. Martin Luther King,, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.  Martin Luther King, III work is rooted in the philosophy of his parents Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. As a global human rights advocate committed to working and addressing issues that better our world.  A global humanitarian who has traveled worldwide to make a difference in the lives of all people, King has unique insight into the civil rights battles being waged every day. In this presentation, King calls attention to injustices, both in the United States and abroad, and the steps needed to make equality for all not just a dream, but a reality. 


Dr. Bernard Lafayette

Dr. Bernard Lafayette

"Keeper of the Dream"

Dr. Bernard Lafayette was with Martin Luther King in Memphis on the morning of his assassination. In King’s final words to Lafayette, he said it was crucial to “institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence.” Lafayette has spent his entire life in steadfastly carrying out King’s very last words to him. Dr. Bernard Lafayette recounted his younger years as one the legendary Freedom Riders. The Freedom Riders challenged the status quo of the Jim Crow era by riding interstate buses in the South in mixed racial groups to challenge local laws or customs that enforced segregation in seating. 


Tracy Martin

Tracy Martin

"From Pain to Purpose"

Vowing to keep fighting for his son Trayvon -- even after the man who killed him, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of murder -- Tracy Martin said  that his family wants to turn "negative energy" surrounding their plight "into a positive.""There's nothing that we can do to bring Trayvon Martin back," Tracy Martin said in Washington. "But if there's something that we can do ... to help other families from going through this, then we're here."


Dr. Joe Martin

Dr. Joe Martin

The Education Motivator"

Dr. Martin knows first hand that the calling to be a educator carries with it the responsibility to help students learn, lead, and achieve. Dr. Joe's message is always powerful, provocative, and practical. His unique insight into what makes great teachers & students inspires his audiences to become just that. 


Arno  Michaelis

Arno Michaelis

"Life After Hate"

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Arno Michaelis was deeply involved with racist skinhead organizations, a reverend of a self-declared Racial Holy War, and lead singer of the hate-metal band Centurion, which sold 20,000 CDs by the mid-nineties and is still popular with racists today. Single parenthood, love for his daughter, and the forgiveness shown by people he once hated all helped to turn his life around and put him on the path to a road called “Life After Hate.”


Kel Mitchell

Kel Mitchell

Inspired Future Generations

Actor, Writer and Director Kel Mitchell was honored with a Cable Ace Award in 1997 for Best Actor in a comedy series for his work in the Nickelodeon series "Kenan and Kel" and also honored with a Kids Choice Award in 1999 for Best Actor in a comedy series for both Nickelodeon series "All That" and "Kenan and Kel". Mitchell later earned two Daytime Emmy Award nominations for his voice work as the lovable "T-Bone" in the award winning PBS series and book series "Clifford the Big Red Dog" in 2001 and again in 2002.

 


Isaac Newton Farris, Jr.

Isaac Newton Farris, Jr.

"Raised in the King Family Tradition"

In September of 2005 Isaac Newton Farris, Jr., was named president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change, commonly known as The King Center. The nephew of Dr. King, Farris had spent the previous five years as chief operating officer (COO) of the center. Established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King as a "living memorial dedicated to the advancement of the legacy" of Dr. King, the center came to include the Freedom Hall Complex, the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr. King's birth home, and Dr. and Mrs. King's crypt. As head of the center, Farris directed its activities and often acted as spokesperson for the King family.


Coach Nolan Richardson

Coach Nolan Richardson

"Overcoming the Odds"

Legendary basketball Coach Nolan Richardson  detailed his experiences as a black coach who had to overcome racism as a child, player, and coach to get to where he is today. Coach Nolan Richardson is an American, who was elected to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014. He has coached teams to winning a Division I  Basketball National Championship, an NIT championship, and a Junior College National Championship. Richardson is the only coach to win all three championships.


Will Rockefeller

Will Rockefeller

"The Next Generation of Service"

Continuing in the Rockefeller legacy of service, Will Rockefeller shared the importance of family and service. As governor, his grandfather, Winthrop Rockefeller brought economic, cultural, and political change to Arkansas. “W. R.” or “Win,” as he was known, brought an end to the political organization of former Governor Orval E. Faubus. Rockefeller’s personal belief in racial equality became well known, and he ushered in an era that saw large numbers of African Americans elevated to high positions in state government. Rockefeller was a “transitional leader” in the sense that he helped discredit the “Old Guard” domination of the Faubus years and, in so doing, made Arkansans more receptive to political and social change.

 


Phyllis Yvonne Stickney

Phyllis Yvonne Stickney

"Empowering Today's Youth"

Ms. Stickney is a world-class artist, producer, director, author, motivational speaker, clothing designer, community activist, businesswoman and surrogate mother to many. Film, theater, television, radio, and one-woman performances have made Phyllis Yvonne Stickney- actress, comedian, lecturer, writer, dancer, choreographer and Little Rock native—a standout far beyond the scope of the black community. 

 


Ethel Tompkins

Ethel Tompkins

First African-American to Graduate from Hoxie School District

“The Hoxie experience prepared me for living and working in a multi-cultural environment, to be tolerant of others, and to remain strong through adversity.”  The daughter of Jesse and Mabel Tompkins, Ethel entered the Hoxie School in the 7th grade when the school integrated in 1955.  According to the Hoxie official records, Ethel is the first African American to graduate from Hoxie School District 46.  She graduated in 1961.  She joined the US Navy in 1965 serving 4 yrs.  While in the Navy, she worked in base Security and as an Admirals Aid.  She remained in Southern California for a while after being discharged from the Navy and returned to Hoxie in 1990 to care for her parents.

Ms. Tompkins holds a BA in Computer Science from Control Data Institute, Los Angeles, California. She is a retired Reference Librarian, Lawrence County Library, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas.

She is a Member of Hazel Street First Baptist Church where she has served as Church Secretary/Treasurer, Sunday School Teacher, Bible Studies Teacher, President-Building Fund, and Missionary Society Teacher and Treasurer. She is a member of the Lawrence County Historical Society, Editor of the  Lawrence County Historical Journal and the African American Co-Coordinator of the Arkansas Gravestone Project.  Her positive memories of the Hoxie Integration experience include

  • Going to a new school that had all of the amenities that our school did not have, such as indoor restrooms, hot and cold running water and automated heating.
  • Having access to new and better learning materials and a wonderful library.

On King Holiday, Ms. Tompkins and the proud citizens of Hoxie, along with the Mayor Lanny Fite, the representatives from the Hoxie Public Schools accepted the 2016 Humanities Award from the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission 60 years after the integration of Hoxie.  At this time, please welcome our Keynote Speaker, Ms. Ethel Tompkins.


Ethel  Tompkins

Ethel Tompkins

First African-American to Graduate from Hoxie School District

On February 22, 20116, The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission welcomed Ms. Ethel Tompkins.  “The Hoxie experience prepared me for living and working in a multi-cultural environment, to be tolerant of others, and to remain strong through adversity.”

The daughter of Jesse and Mabel Tompkins, Ethel entered the Hoxie School in the 7th grade when the school integrated in 1955.  According to the Hoxie official records, Ethel is the first African American to graduate from Hoxie School District 46.  She graduated in 1961.  She joined the US Navy in 1965 serving 4 yrs.  While in the Navy, she worked in base Security and as an Admirals Aid.  She remained in Southern California for a while after being discharged from the Navy and returned to Hoxie in 1990 to care for her parents.

Ms. Tompkins holds a BA in Computer Science from Control Data Institute, Los Angeles, California. She is a retired Reference Librarian, Lawrence County Library, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. She is a Member of Hazel Street First Baptist Church where she has served as Church Secretary/Treasurer, Sunday School Teacher, Bible Studies Teacher, President-Building Fund, and Missionary Society Teacher and Treasurer. She is a member of the Lawrence County Historical Society, Editor of the  Lawrence County Historical Journal and the African American Co-Coordinator of the Arkansas Gravestone Project.  Her positive memories of the Hoxie Integration experience include

  • Going to a new school that had all of the amenities that our school did not have, such as indoor restrooms, hot and cold running water and automated heating.
  • Having access to new and better learning materials and a wonderful library.

 On King Holiday, Ms. Tompkins and the proud citizens of Hoxie, along with the Mayor Lanny Fite, the representatives from the Hoxie Public Schools accepted the 2016 Humanities Award from the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission 60 years after the integration of Hoxie.  


Marlon Wayans

Marlon Wayans

Comedian, Actor

Marlon L. Wayans (born July 23, 1972) is an American actor, model producer, comedian, writer, and director of movies, beginning with his role as a pedestrian in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka in 1988. He frequently collaborates with his brother Shawn Wayans, as he has on the WB sitcom The Wayans Bros. and in the comedic films Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2, White Chicks, Little Man, and Dance Flick. However, Wayans had a dramatic role in Darren Aronofsky's critically acclaimed Requiem for a Dream, which saw his departure from the usual comedies. In 2009, he appeared in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Wayans was born in New York, New York, the son of Elvira, a homemaker and social worker, and Howell Wayans, a supermarket manager. His family was involved in the Jehovah's Witnesses religion. Marlon Wayans was raised in the housing projects of New York City, the youngest of ten siblings. He is the brother of Nadia Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Damon Wayans, Dwayne Wayans, and Kim Wayans; all celebrities in their own right. Wayans went to Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City, the school made famous in Fame. He attended Howard


Melvin Williams

Melvin Williams

Legendary Gospel Artist

Melvin Williams, world-renowned gospel producer, singer, songwriter, and lead vocalist for the legendary Williams Brothers with his distinctive gospel sound has been a leader in the Gospel Music Industry for over 55 years.  He began singing at the age of six. Melvin’s musical repertoire includes five solo albums, a massive archive of Williams Brothers albums, Seven-Grammy Award nominations and 17-Stellar Awards, Dove Awards, including International recognition from Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan(Ah-zher-bye-han), Georgia and more.

Mr. Williams was appointed U.S. Music Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State Cultural Affairs & Diplomacy performs for audiences globally with his mission to “Preserve Traditional Gospel Music”. During his EuroAsia tour, Melvin honors those great Gospel singers that have come before him like Mahalia Jackson, The Dixie Hummingbirds, James Cleveland as well as hosting workshops on The History of Gospel Music and its influence in today’s music including blues, jazz, R&B, country, etc.

 On occasion, Melvin tours with the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin singing duets with Ms. Franklin on the legendary song “Precious Memories.” Most recently, Melvin performed along with Aretha Franklin and his brother at The White House’s annual “In Performance Series: The Gospel Tradition” the fourteenth program during President Barak Obama’s administration that aired on PBS and TV One. Throughout his career, Melvin shared the stage nation-wide with such other musical greats as Stevie Wonder, BeBe and CeCe Winans, Luther Vandross, Patti LaBelle, James Taylor, Amy Grant, Paul Overstreet, Chaka Khan, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Shirley Caesar, Walter Hawkins, Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Mighty Clouds of Joys, Mississippi Mass Choir, Bishop Paul S Morton and many others. (www.melvinwilliams.net)

Melvin Williams, songwriter, producer and singer of the hit song “Cooling Water” remained on the Billboard and gospel charts for over 100 weeks and remains one of the most popular songs requested by audiences nationwide!