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2024 marks 30 years of Scottsdale Community Celebrating Diversity effort in honor of MLK legacy

photo of Scottsdale Community Celebrating Diversity
At this year’s event Kris Cano and Dr. Velma Trayham will be recognized as diversity champions meanwhile Dr. Battinto Batts is serving as keynote speaker. (File Photos/DigitalFreePress)
Scottsdale Community Celebrating Diversity hosts keystone MLK dinner
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

This January marks 30 years the Scottsdale Community Celebrating Diversity is hosting a premiere Valley event to honor those who embody the spirit and ideals of the nonviolent Civil Rights Era movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A message of equality, equity and nonviolence is the key piece of information for Marion Kelly — who serves as a member of the board of directors at the Scottsdale Community Celebrating Diversity, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — as he readies for the 30th anniversary of the equality effort in Scottsdale.

For Mr. Kelly, the 2024 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Dinner Celebration — which begins 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, at the Fieldhouse at Scottsdale Stadium — is a celebration and time for all to come together in the spirit of community collaboration.

“For me, the whole idea of conveying the MLK holiday and the celebration of Dr. King is not exclusively about the Black community — it is a holiday for equality and equity,” he pointed out. “It is a holiday where people who are willing to stand up for justice come together. It is about pulling others up to the next rung of life and it doesn’t have anything to do with color.”

Mr. Kelly explains the efforts of the Community Celebrating Diversity are focused on lifting each other up — no matter where they come from or what they look like.

“That can be red, white, black, polka-dot or pink,” he said. “Dr. King’s ideals were first of all nonviolent, equality and equity across any population, whether that was rural America or the inner cities. That idea of equity and justice is just as important to John Q citizen as it is to the immigrant that comes across our border. We hope this event helps to get the message of hope for the community during a time when American is divided in just about every way be it politically, socially or economically.”

At this year’s event Kris Cano and Dr. Velma Trayham will be recognized as diversity champions meanwhile Dr. Battinto Batts is serving as keynote speaker. Dr. Batts is dean at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Ms. Cano, a 2024 diversity champion, recently retired from government service and the city of Scottsdale, working as the WestWorld of Scottsdale general manager and most of her career as the forensic services director with the Scottsdale Police Department.

Dr. Trayham is an acclaimed author, world-renowned speaker, and award-winning business growth strategist who believes that inclusive, equitable businesses and communities create opportunity and drive prosperity.

Scottsdale Community Celebrating Diversity hosts keystone MLK dinner

Over the past three decades, Mr. Kelly explains the event has grown in significant stature hosting dignitaries from across the Valley of the Sun as a premier event.

“It has become a staple in the community and has grown significantly — it is one of the best dinner events in the community and it provides an incredibly diverse audience,” he explained. “While it is a very well run dinner, the ultimate goal is provide scholarships to deserving students who align with the morals and ideals of Dr. King.”

Mr. Kelly says a focused goal of the scholarship program — a youth and college scholarship program — is to help retain and grow homegrown talent in and around the Scottsdale community.

“It is not necessarily about the quantity of the scholarships, but the quality of the candidates who receive the scholarship,” he said. “Whether we retain them, or they move on to another community, they end up doing good wherever they go.”

Each year, Community Celebrating Diversity offers youth scholarships to college-bound high school students. The sponsors of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. event provides the funds for the scholarships. Officials there say that since 2007, a total of 57 students have been awarded a total of $139,000 in scholarships.

“My hope is that this event can bring people together to share a platform to hear, listen and understand what equality and equity means, that’s the message for me,” Mr. Kelly told the Arizona Digital Free Press. “This is not a minority discussion — this is a discussion about doing the right thing, and that doesn’t have color on it.”

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