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Dr. Karen Hardin named 2024 Diversity Champion by Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i of Paradise Valley

Photo of Dr. Karen Hardin

Dr. Karen Hardin: ‘We have to use time to do what is right’

By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

The largest crowd in recent memory attended the annual celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hosted by the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i at the Town of Paradise Valley.

Community leaders from all over the Valley of the Sun gathered Monday, Jan 15, at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive, to honor the life, message and legacy of Dr. King — a celebratory observance of racial equality now in its 26th year.

But the keynote MLK event of the Valley was missing a founding a member of the community event.

“We have an empty chair here physically but not spiritually,” said Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner. “We are missing John Wintersteen, who chaired this committee and launched this event — this is a profound day. Those who knew John Wintersteen knows that he loved humanity — this is bigger than us because this day is about hope for the future — not the past.”

Former Paradise Valley Police Chief John Wintersteen passed away unexpectedly earlier this month.

“What an honor it is to be here with you all today. I think this is the best-attended event we have had —- that is because of everyone here,” Mayor Bien-Willner said. “All of our faith communities make our town even stronger and the Baha’i community is no exception to that.”

Hundreds came to Town Hall to honor the ideas presented to the world by Dr. King and in a salute to the efforts of Dr. Karen Hardin, president of the NAACP — Maricopa County Branch, as the 2024 Diversity Award recipient.

‘We cannot sit this one out’

Dr. Hardin pointed out recently a friend had shared with her writings of Dr. King when he was incarcerated at the Birmingham Jail.

An excerpt from the August 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail reads:

… Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.”

Read the letter in its entirety HERE.

(Photo: Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress)

Dr. Hardin calls the letter ‘poignant’ and during this time in American history a vital piece of history for all citizens to contemplate.

“We must make this personal — all of us in the room today understand the critical time we are in the United States,” she told the crowd in attendance that day. “And we must make this personal. We cannot sit on the sidelines this time we cannot wait for others to do what needs to be done.”

Dr. Hardin offered those in attendance a challenge.

“My call to action today here for us today is we have to use time to do what is right,” she said. “We cannot let the evil forces better use the time than we do for good.”

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