DLA Columbus celebrates MLK legacy

By Craig M. Rader DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

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Members of the Defense Supply Center Columbus workforce gathered inside the installation’s auditorium Jan. 17 to celebrate the birthday and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The event featured a presentation by Ethan Holmes, 24, who founded a successful organic applesauce company as a teenager. Holmes credited King for providing him with the motivation to pursue business ownership at an early age.

“As a young black entrepreneur in America, I’ve been blessed to grow up with opportunities,” Holmes said. “Those opportunities were there thanks to great leaders like Dr. King and others who made the dreams of future generations possible.”

DSCC’s African American Employment Program committee sponsored the event, which also included readings from two finalists of the Columbus Africentric Early College essay contest. Aiyanna Harrison and Jordan Hayes each received trophies for their essays about King and his contributions to civil rights activism.

During his opening remarks, Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime Deputy Commander Steven Alsup said King’s commitment to social equality and improvement is a value shared by the agency.

“Today, our DLA Land and Maritime workforce mirrors that same spirit of diversity and inclusion,” Alsup said. “African Americans make up more than 17 percent of Land and Maritime’s workforce.

“In fact, we exceed the local civilian labor market by nearly a third in employment of African Americans, with a majority in the mid-level career to emerging leader categories.”

Alsup credited the agency’s active inclusion programs as one of the reasons why DLA more than doubles the national civilian workforce in diversity employment.

Harrison’s winning essay discussed her admiration for King’s philosophy of reciprocity – what one gives is what they get. She said even as a child, there are many opportunities to practice moral behavior.

“When I’m playing with my friends and someone of a different race wants to play, I let them join us,” she wrote. “Dr. King wanted everyone to be kind to each other, and I want that too.”

Holmes shares this attitude toward inclusion in the way he operates his business. He said even during the manufacturing process he works to educate and include members of the community. He said employing local high school students allows him to educate and mentor his staff while passing on the experience he’s gained from being a young entrepreneur.

His civic mindedness has paid off. In August 2017, the Cleveland Foundation awarded Holmes a $130,000 grant for his commitment to promoting sustainable and inclusive opportunities that benefited local residents.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Alsup and representatives from DSCC’s African American Employment Program thanked Holmes and the essayists for their participation and presented them with mementos on behalf of the installation.

Alsup said the event’s theme, “Remember, celebrate, act – A day on, not a day off,” should serve as a reminder that King’s birthday is a day that inspires yearlong action.

“This commemoration is a chance to rededicate ourselves to the same beliefs in equality and humanitarianism that motivated Dr. King throughout his lifetime,” Alsup said. “We share his vision of equality for all, access for all and opportunity for all.”