SALT LAKE CITY — Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrates the memory of a historic leader — something Cedric Powell said is crucial to continuing his famous message of equality.
Powell, law professor at Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, was the keynote speaker at the NAACP Salt Lake City Chapter's 35th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Luncheon held Monday.
"I want to emphasize lasting legacy because Dr. King's political dynamism did not end in 1968 — it resonates to do this day," Powell said. “We live in a society where 'Make America great again' easily morphs into ‘you will not replace us.’”
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams were in attendance at the event, joined by more than a hundred guests.
Jeanetta Williams, president of NAACP Salt Lake Branch, said the group is focused on inclusivity.
"One of the things that people don't realize is that they look at the NAACP and they think that it's an African-American organization," she said. "But it's an organzation for everybody. Everybody can be a member of the NAACP and our membership reflects that here."
Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, received the chapter's Rosa Parks Award, which is given annually to a woman who has helped "keep the dream alive" in Utah, according to the award description on the event's program.
She said standing up for what's right is important, now more than ever.
“Sitting on the sidelines, my brothers and sisters, is no longer an option," she said.
Hollins recently introduced legislation aimed at removing the slavery exception from Utah's constitution.
"It is outdated, hurtful language that no longer reflects who we are as a state," she said Monday. "Dr. King said 'The time is always right to do what is right.' Which is the reason why I decided to move the loophole in slavery out of Utah's constitution."
Andy Noorda, trustee of the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation, received The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Award Monday for the foundation's efforts to advance civil rights in Utah.
The foundation "made many generous donations to charitable organizations," according to the event's program.
The third-annual First Responders Awards were also handed out at the lunch to 13 people who have "gone beyond the call of duty in the work that they do," Williams said.
Jeffrey Thomas, battalion chief with the Salt Lake Fire Department and first black firefighter in Utah, presented the public safety focused-awards.1 comment on this story
"This is an honor and a privilege to be able to stand before my peers and recognize them for the great work that they do serving our community," Thomas said.
Nine Utah students also received scholarships from different sponsors, including the Utah Jazz and Smith's Food and Drug Stores.
Williams said she wants people to continue to believe in King's dream.
"It's a time that we reflect on the work that he did, and he had a dream and that dream continues," she said. "The dream is not dead and we want to make sure that people want to support the NAACP and continue the work Dr. King started."