By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Sarah Oden | Shot on location at Little Rock Central High School
As a young man in Southeast Arkansas, Gerald Canada remembers the encounter on a playground that was his introduction to discrimination. “I was told to get off the seesaw, yet other kids were allowed to get on it,” he recalls. “I did not realize until I arrived home that evening and told my grandmother about the event that many in this world see me as different due to the color of my skin and that it might be some time before I was treated as an equal.” Schools were not fully integrated, yet Gerald pursued a complete education and believes that it is the foundation for a future that celebrates diversity. Today, Gerald serves on the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission and hopes the upcoming Nonviolence Youth Summit Next Generation Series; Passing the Torch will inspire younger Arkansans to embrace the life + legacy of Dr. King as a beacon for social justice.
The Nonviolence Youth Summit Next Generation Series; Passing the Torch – presented in partnership with Arkansas Department of Human Services and the Arkansas Department of Education – recognizes the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King on April 4, 1968. “It will contain factual accounts, dispelling the myths and giving out an educated perspective of this event in history,” Gerald explains. The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission provides statewide programming, like this virtual summit, that promotes a better understanding of nonviolence + human equality as a path for positive change.
Gerald Canada was only five years old when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated; his favorite television program was interrupted to broadcast the funeral procession. “At that young age, I had no idea what impact his life and death actually had on our nation and later as I began my adulthood, the significance his legacy would have on my life,” he reflects. Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Executive Director DuShun Scarbrough adds, “Commissioner Canada is always willing to help, no matter the task. Dr. King said, ‘to serve all you need is a heart full of love’ – Gerald and his wife Hilda have hearts full of love.”
Through his tenure with the commission, Gerald realizes the importance of the organization’s mission fulfillment work and its steadfast commitment to the progression of human rights. “Bringing all races, creeds and colors together to learn about Dr. King and his sacrifice – his plight against racism as well as his vision – brings us closer to that one day when ALL people from varied walks of life can be on one accord.”