Ds Scholarship

The Day – Celebrating the region’s diversity for more than a month

Every year, we publish stories about high school seniors from throughout the area who receive scholarships from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Trust Fund.

It’s always evident that these young people of color, selected based on grades, character and the strength of their application essays, are going to do great things with their lives.

Until now, we’ve never taken the time to check back in to see how they’re doing.

On Sunday, we’re publishing a special section called More than a Month: Black History.

We’ll have stories and photos of MLK scholars from each of the past three decades; features about Black business owners, parents and community located; and we’ll introduce you to some of the people and places on the new Black Heritage Trail in New London. Community members of all ages will tell you why they’re proud to be Black.

Subscribers to our print editions will receive the special section with their Sunday paper, and the content will also be available on theday.com.

The More than a Month: Black History tab is one of four we’ll publish this year.

Next up will be Pride Month, featuring members of the LGBTQ+ communities, followed by special sections on Hispanic Heritage and Native American months. The project was conceived in The Day’s Diversity Committee with help from advertising managers. Newsroom staff worked hard to produce the stories and put it all together.

We’ve told you about The Day’s mission to improve our coverage of the entire community and to include voices we don’t consistently cover or hear from. Now we’re going to show you some of our recent work in that area, including our effort to follow up with the King scholars.

“We write about these kids every year and they’re just so incredible,” said Staff Writer Claire Bessette, who reports on the MLK scholars from Norwich Free Academy each year.

“They’re amazing, intelligent and they have such ambitious goals and we never follow up with them,” Bessette said when I talked to her this week. “They graduate, go on to college and they’re gone.”

Bessette interviewed Rayshawn Whitford, Stonington High School Class of 2007, for More than a Month. Once the recipient of the MLK Jr. award, Whitford said he is sponsoring a scholar this year. We love the “full circle” theme — and wait until you hear about Whitford’s accomplishments and adventures as a young adult.

Rachelle Aekins, a member of Waterford High School’s Class of 2011, is another recipient committed to giving back by helping the next generation of students. Reporter Kimberly Drelich caught up with Aekins, who is vice president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Trust Fund board of trustees and is working at a medical device manufacturing company.

Reporter Sten Spinella checked in with another MLK Jr. Scholar, Derrell Wilson. A Norwich City Councilor, Wilson is also one of 2021’s 100 Most Influential Blacks in Connecticut. Woot!

There’s so much more.

Robin Watson, a multiplatform copy editor in the newsroom and member of the companywide Diversity Committee, suggested we ask people of all ages, “What does it mean to be Black and proud?” You’ll see some of the answers we received attached to this column, and more inside Sunday’s special section.

“I came up with the idea for the quotes because I wanted a way for Black people in the area to have their voices heard in The Day without being put through a white filter,” Watson wrote in an email this week. “I wanted Black people to have their authentic voices heard far and wide. And I wanted the readers and subscribers of The Day to see and hear the beauty, strength and joy of what it is to be unapologetically Black. I also recognized the limited resources of The Day, and I thought the quotes were the best way to get the outcome I was looking for with the variables I had to work with.”

Watson spoke with New London former City Councilor Kevin Booker Jr. for a Black and proud quote, and he responded with a poem, which you’ll see below.

Let us know what you think of the section, and send in your suggestions for people and businesses from the LGBTQ+, Latino and Native American communities to feature in the next few editions of More than a Month.

Karen Florin is The Day’s engagement editor. She can be reached at k.florin@theday.com or (860) 701-4217.

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