The Day – Celebrating the diversity of the region for over a month

Each year, we publish stories about high school students from across the region who receive scholarships from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Trust Fund.

It is always evident that these young people of color, selected based on their grades, character and strength of their application essays, are going to do great things with their lives.

So far we have never taken the time to come back to see how they are doing.

On Sunday, we post a special section titled Over a Month: Black History.

We’ll have stories and photos of MLK scholars from each of the past three decades; articles about black business owners, parents and community activists; and we’ll introduce you to some of the people and places on the new Black Heritage Trail in New London. Community members of all ages will tell you why they are proud to be black.

Subscribers to our print editions will receive the special section with their Sunday newspaper, and the content will also be available on theday.com.

The More than a Month: Black History tab is one of four we’ll be releasing this year.

Next up will be Pride Month, featuring members of the LGBTQ+ communities, followed by special sections on Hispanic Heritage and Native American Months. The project was designed within The Day’s Diversity Committee with the help of the advertising managers. Newsroom staff worked hard to produce the stories and put them together.

We told you about The Day’s mission to improve our coverage of the broader community and include voices that we don’t routinely cover or hear from. We’ll now show you some of our recent work in this area, including our efforts to follow up with King researchers.

“We write about these kids every year and they are so amazing,” said Claire Bessette, editor-in-chief, who reports annually on Norwich Free Academy’s MLK Scholars.

“They’re amazing, smart and they have such big goals and we never follow them,” Bessette said when I spoke to him this week. “They graduate, go to college and they’re gone.”

Bessette interviewed Rayshawn Whitford, class of 2007 at Stonington High School, for over a month. Once a recipient of the MLK Jr. Award, Whitford said he is sponsoring a scholar this year. We love the ‘full loop’ theme – and wait until you hear about Whitford’s accomplishments and adventures as a young adult.

Rachelle Aekins, a member of Waterford High School’s Class of 2011, is another recipient determined to give back by helping the next generation of students. Journalist Kimberly Drelich caught up with Aekins, who serves as vice chairman of the board of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Trust Fund and works at a medical device manufacturing company.

Reporter Sten Spinella checked in with fellow MLK Jr. Fellow Derrell Wilson. A Norwich City Councilman, Wilson is also one of Connecticut’s 100 Most Influential Black People in 2021. Phew!

There is so much more.

Robin Watson, cross-platform editor in the newsroom and member of the company’s diversity committee, suggested we ask people of all ages, “What does it mean to be black and proud ? You’ll see some of the responses we received attached to this column, and more in Sunday’s special section.

“I came up with the idea for the quotes because I wanted a way for local black people to have their voices heard in The Day without going through a white filter,” Watson wrote in an email this week. “I wanted black people to make their authentic voice heard in the distance. And I wanted readers and subscribers of The Day to see and hear the beauty, the strength and the joy of what it is to be shamelessly black I also recognized The Day’s limited resources, and thought the quotes were the best way to get the result I was looking for with the variables I had to work with.”

Watson spoke to former New London councilor Kevin Booker Jr. for a dark and proud quote, and he responded with a poem, which you’ll see below.

Let us know what you think of the section and submit your suggestions for people and businesses from the LGBTQ+, Latino, and Native American communities to be featured in future editions of Over a Month.

Karen Florin is The Day’s Engagement Editor. She can be reached at [email protected] or (860) 701-4217.

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