PORTSMOUTH, VA (NNS) -- The Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) African American Employment Resource Group (AA-ERG) hosted its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Jan. 16 to honor the life and accomplishments of the late civil rights leader.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day, celebrated on the third Monday of January, coincides with King’s birthday. Known widely as a day of service, the theme observed each year is, “Remember. Celebrate. Act. A day on, not a day off.” The day provides those with an opportunity to not only remember the impact Dr. King had on the world, but also an opportunity to service the community.
“Dr. King was a man who put purpose above self,” said Shipyard Commander Capt. Kai Torkelson. “He gave his time and effort to make a change. And his legacy continues to live on to this day.”
Torkelson continued, “We at America’s Shipyard follow in King’s footsteps to make lasting change. Every problem we face is an opportunity to make lasting change for the community, for the country, and for the world. We can serve others with our actions, our ambitions, and our drive. There is always work to be done and it takes that desire and that dream to make it a reality.”
Dr. Jacqueline Hardy-Harris was the guest speaker for the event. She spoke of King’s dreams and efforts to bring equal rights to the forefront of America.
“King was more than a civil rights leader. He was a prophet for change,” said Hardy-Harris. “He was not afraid to face what would test his faith. His efforts were catapulted into the national gaze. His non-violent campaigns were instrumental in the civil rights movement and ensuring equal rights in our country.”
“Dr. King lived in constant danger for his dreams and actions. He was relentlessly harassed and jailed,” she said. “Yet he persevered. He would not back down from the fight. Because he believed that what he did was right.”
Dr. Hardy-Harris then shared how Dr. King inspired her personally. “When I was nine years old, I had a dream of being a police officer,” she said. “There were no women on TV that were black and police officers and there were no black women on the police force. People would question my dream but I didn’t care. I wanted to be a police officer and help people. Just as Dr. King had a dream and fought to make it happen, so would I.”
She continued, “In 1981 I was the first African American female officer assigned to the Kendall District in Miami. Within a year, I was promoted to detective and worked undercover in vice, narcotics, robbery and homicide. It was dangerous work and there were many days where I was scared for my life. But I enjoyed my career because I was making a difference. I was fulfilling a dream I had since I was a little girl. It was my destiny. Dr. King said I could do whatever I put my mind to. So I accomplished what I set out to do.”
Torkelson said in closing, “At NNSY, our mission is any ship, any time, anywhere. Today’s message from Dr. Hardy-Harris is about turning dreams into reality and working to honor King’s legacy to guarantee equal rights and opportunities for all. In our command philosophy, we speak on the people being at the heart of our mission. We’re trying to build to our fullest potential as a high performing team that treats one-another exceptionally well. By following that philosophy, we build on Care, Ownership, Respect, and Excellence – C.O.R.E. King once said, ‘life’s most persistent and urgent question – what are you doing for others?’ I encourage each of you to think on those words. We are entrusted with continuing the legacy of King and do our part to make positive change.”
The NNSY AA-ERG’s goal is promoting economic opportunities, providing mechanisms for inclusion, and facilitating growth and advocacy by increasing knowledge and appreciation for the historical and cultural heritage of African Americans throughout NNSY and the surrounding communities.
For more news from Norfolk Naval Shipyard, visit www.navy.mil/local/nnsy/.