Dr. King is mostly known for his influence in the U.S. Civil Rights movement and his “I Have a Dream” speech, but his life goes beyond his timeless quotes.
Every year, we observe a federal holiday on the third Monday of January, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Dr. King was born in Atlanta, Georgia on Jan. 15, 1929. He became a spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination on April 4, 1968. Dr. King worked to raise public awareness of racism and end racial discrimination and segregation in the United States.
Here are a few things you may not know about Dr. Martin Luther King:
- His birth name wasn’t Martin. His given name was Michael. That is why his family and closest friends called him “Mike.” When he was 5 years old, his father changed his name after attending an international Baptist conference in Germany about the teachings of 16th century religious thinker Martin Luther.
- He worked for a newspaper. At 13-years old he had a paper route. His work ethic allowed him to get promoted and become the youngest assistant manager for The Atlanta Journal delivery station.
- Dr. King started college at 15 years old. He enrolled at the Historically Black College or University (HBCU), Morehouse College, and completed a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1948.
- He had a doctorate in philosophy. In 1955, he earned his Ph.D. from Boston University.
- He wrote five books. His publications include a book of his sermons, “Strength to Love”; a collection of his broadcasted addresses, “The Trumpet of Conscience”; and essential writings, “Why We Can't Wait.”
- He won a Grammy Award. His speech “Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” was recorded on vinyl and won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album in 1969.
- He was the youngest man to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. At age 35, he received the prize for his nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice in America.
An ongoing fight: Health care justice
Besides fighting for racial justice, we are still working to achieve equal rights for people of every race, gender, economic status, among others. But one issue, even more so now during the pandemic, is health care justice and health disparities for our communities of color.
Dr. Martin Luther King delivered this important quote during a Chicago press conference in March 1966: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.” In his lifetime, African American communities were segregated and received inferior medical care. Unfortunately, we still can see disparities in health care for these communities.
At Quartz, we recognize the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion to build an environment of trust and respect, making a positive impact on employees and members alike. Here are some of Quartz’s initiatives to help bridge the gap in health disparities:
- Celebrating the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday – By including MLK Day as a company-approved holiday, we are demonstrating our commitment to valuing diverse insights, perspectives, and backgrounds. The decision came about due to employee feedback and the efforts of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Change Team.
- Quartz Cares Matching Program –Quartz Cares started after the COVID-19 Pandemic and it was in response to the needs of the communities we serve. Quartz employees donated $21,200 to local organizations that focus on racial and health disparities. Our company match brought donations to more than $42,400.
- Addressing COVID-19 Health Disparities – Quartz is empowering our members most vulnerable to COVID-19 with information about prevention and resources if they feel they have experienced discrimination when seeking medical services.
- COVID-19 community financial support – DE&I joined the Quartz Cares team, raising awareness for community members who were eligible for help with premiums.
- Health Insurance 101– This presentation (in English, Spanish, and Hmong) educated communities of color and other ethnicities. It focused on how health insurance works in the U.S., basic terminology, and who to contact with questions.
- BadgerCare Plus Assessment Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) – CLAS is an assessment requested by The Department of Health Services (DHS) of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) to focus efforts on reducing health disparities. Quartz assessed and adjusted its efforts to best support BadgerCare Plus members.
- Diversity Matters Cultural Competency Training – Employees completed annual cultural competency.
- Hiring Manager Training – Quartz raised awareness about implicit bias with hiring managers and provided strategies for making objective hiring decisions.
Even though we have a long way to go, and a lot of work to do, every step we take to promote equality and bridge the gap in health disparities and racial injustice is a step toward a better society. Let’s remember these immortal words from Dr. King that still inspire us: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise and live out the true meaning of its creed — we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”