Where do
we go
from here?

A celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy, recognizing members from our own community who have committed themselves to lives of service.

Photo by AFP via Getty Images

Photo by AFP via Getty Images


We are honored to welcome everyone here on behalf
of UW Health Sciences and University of Washington Medical Center.

Together, we are proud to support this annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. where we recognize not only one of the greatest figures in our nation’s history, but also the members of our own community who have dedicated themselves to lives of service.

Although this year we cannot all gather in the same room, we created this website to continue our tradition of sharing inspiring stories, powerful music and a sense of hope and unity. We would like to thank the Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Committee members who worked very hard to put together this dynamic and engaging website.

The group is made up of staff and faculty from the six health sciences schools and UW Medicine. Thank you!

Cindy Hecker, RN, Chief Executive Officer UW Medical Center – Northwest and Montlake Campus

Azita Emami, PhD, MSN, RN, FAAN, Robert G. and Jean A. Reid Executive Dean

MLK Planning Committee


Renni Bispham, Keith A. Bussey, Cher Espina, Tracy Hirai-Seaton, Tami Horner, Danielle Ishem, Kendan Jones-Isaac, Brenda N. Martinez, Khalfani Mwamba,
Juanita M Ricks, Zene Tefera, Daren Wade, Teri Ward

Embracing the truth

No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow. 

— Alice Walker

Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images

Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images

"So the doctor said"
by Jourdan Imani Keith

Jourdan Keith is a recipient of the University of Washington Medicine's MLK 2011 Distinguished Service Award for her community service.

The founder and director of Urban Wilderness Project and the City of Seattle's  2019-2021 Civic Poet, Jourdan Imani Keith is a storyteller, essayist, playwright, naturalist and activist. Drawing on the teachings of Sonia Sanchez, Keith presented the Tedx Talk, “Your Body of Water,” in 2010. This talk went on to inspire the theme for King County’s 2016-2018 Poetry on Buses program, which won an Americans for the Arts award.’

Her poetry is largely anthologized and was long listed by Danez Smith for Cosmonauts Avenue poetry prize. Keith's Orion Magazine essays, "Desegregating Wilderness" and "At Risk", were selected for the "2015 Best American Science and Nature Writing Anthology" (Houghton Mifflin).

She has been awarded fellowships from Hedgebrook, Wildbranch, Santa Fe Science Writing workshop, VONA and Jack Straw. Her memoir in essays, "Tugging at the Web" is forthcoming from University of Washington Press.

We Shall Overcome

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome someday


Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome someday

We are not alone
We are not alone
We are not alone someday


Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We are not alone someday

We’ll walk hand in hand
We’ll walk hand in hand
We’ll walk hand in hand someday


Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We’ll walk hand in hand someday

We shall all be free
We shall all be free
We shall all be free today”


Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall all be free today”

Savannah Blackwell is a senior at Franklin High School. She is passionate about the performing arts and doing the work to support and uplift her community. Savannah has performed all over Seattle, including the Moore theater with More Music @ The Moore, the Paramount for its annual fundraiser, and several plays & musicals. Savannah believes in the power of music and the arts and is grateful she’s able to use it as a vehicle for change and connection.

Photo by ©Bettmann via Getty Images

Demanding Justice

The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression  

— WEB DuBois

Photo by Marie Hansen/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Photo by Marie Hansen/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Black Parade Choreographed
by Cipher Goings

This piece was originally created to highlight Black culture and magnify excellence. As artists, it is our job to create work relevant to our time for the generations after us to know where we stood in this moment of history. We decided to recreate the video to depict the FULL picture of this pivotal moment in time that we’re living in; COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s imperative that we continue to practice physical distancing and wear a mask. This video was filmed in one of our city’s most sacred places, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park. This is the nation’s only MLK memorial on MLK way street in MLK county.

Northwest Tap Connection is a race and social justice oriented dance studio.

Our mission is inclusive of providing quality dance and job opportunities to under-served communities, and also to raise a generation of socially conscious artists who produce works that foster change. ​Our philosophy is that dance enriches the lives of the students while also helping to develop self-discipline, instill self-confidence, and encourage achievement nwtapconnection.org/

"Though Long The Road" by My Uncle Max (Robert Jones, Deion Sims and Darren Lee)

Birthed of the historic turmoil of 2020, My Uncle Max is a spontaneous collaboration of three Seattle-based friends. Their single, “Though Long The Road” is a lamentation of lost family members and an homage to those fighting for racial justice.

Rob Jones: “Though I graduated with the UWSOM class of 2020, I am actually a member of the entering class of 2009. I expanded my curriculum for health reasons back in 2011 after my second year, and it was during that expansion that I learned the healing power of music and it’s heartfelt expression. I now incorporate those lessons into my daily life and practice as a clinical program manager at Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center in Seattle’s Central District. As an aside, coincidentally, I was the student keynote at this very celebration honoring Dr. King ten years ago! I am so honored to once again have my words and passion associated with this special day!”

Darren Lee: “I'm a lifelong musician, first as a violinist, trombonist, and guitarist in my youth and, more recently, as a recording engineer and producer. I attended the UWSOM from 2009 - 2014 as a medical student and 2014 - 2019 as a resident and fellow in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. During these years, I founded the Musicians at the UWSOM and Arts for Health@UW and also met, befriended, and played in bands with the inimitable Rob Jones. I'm proud to have pursued my passion for music alongside my career in medicine through all these years and would encourage everyone to remember the healing power of music - both for yourself and others - as you continue to develop your skills in health care. Most of all, I'm proud to have helped Rob share this poignant message through music during such a critical juncture in the history of US race relations.”

Deion Sims: “I am a second-year medical student at UWSOM from Nashville, TN. Music is my first love. I come from a family of musicians and have played guitar, bass, and the drums for as long as I can remember. I met Rob in the hospital last year and he took me under his wing and introduced me to the Seattle music scene. After the lynching’s of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Rob called me to help bring “Though Long the Road” to life along with him and Darren. It has been a joy to be a part of this process and we hope that our song can open eyes and move those that hear it!”

Supporting Community

Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble  

— Rep. John Lewis

Photo by Jeff Hutchens/Getty Images

Photo by Jeff Hutchens/Getty Images

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and UW Health Sciences Community,

While we are unable to physically be together in person, it is important to honor and celebrate the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. All of us are aware, and those in the health professions are even more aware, of the unprecedented challenges we have been living through that prevents us from gathering.

Those challenges have laid bare inequities and injustices that some of us know all too well. Now that these inequities and injustices have been made visible for all, it is imperative that each of us do our part in helping to address them. This is how we continue the work of Dr. King. This is how we continue the struggle for freedom and justice.

In his 1963 book, "Strength to Love," Dr. King raised a challenging question. He asked, “Will we march only to the music of time, or will we, risking criticism and abuse, march to the soul-saving music of eternity?” How will each of us answer Dr. King’s question? As we celebrate his life, let us also truly honor his legacy. Let this day serve as a reminder that we all have a responsibility to improve our communities and work to create a more inclusive and just world. 

Let us make a commitment to do more than celebrate through music, poetry and word; let us do more than “march for the moment.” Instead, let us “march to the soul-saving music of equity and justice in our daily lives.” If each of us accepts our role in advancing social justice, Dr. King’s observation about the arc of the moral universe will ring true — indeed, we will witness for ourselves that as Dr. King said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”


Rickey Hall
Vice President
University Diversity Officer
Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

MLK Community Service Award 2021

This award honors individuals or groups who exemplify Martin Luther King, Jr.’s principles through:

Commitment to addressing community needs,
particularly communities of color and low income

Development and implementation of significant programs
to improve the human condition

Outstanding efforts to protect and empower all individuals

Photo by Stephen Somerstein/Getty Images

Photo by Stephen Somerstein/Getty Images

School of Dentistry - Dan Walker

In 2018, Dan worked closely with another student in their class to found iDENTity, a registered student organization focused on promoting and supporting the LGBTQ+ community in dentistry.  The group has organized several successful interprofessional panels aimed at increasing understanding around issues faced by trans and non-binary persons in healthcare. Dan and the iDENTity leadership team have been working closely with our Office of Educational Partnerships and Diversity (OEPD) to organize outreach events at local LGBTQ+ community organizations in order to provide free dental services to those served by these organizations. Dan also frequently volunteers as a mentor in our pipeline programs aimed at encouraging under-represented youth to pursue careers in the health professions.

Dan has been an effective leader and advocate for the needs of non-binary individuals both locally and nationally. Dan has worked hard to be inclusive. They have sought to build understanding and create allies among faculty, students, staff, and administration, both within and outside of dentistry. Dan readily steps forward to lead, and also readily seeks out partnerships with others to make progress.

School of Medicine - Seeds of BAMM

Seeds of BAMM is a coalition of Black students at the University of Washington School of Medicine (UW School of Medicine). BAMM was created in order to address anti-Black racism and white supremacy within medicine, specifically at UWSOM; to create the conditions for accountability for our administration and faculty so that they can recognize and dismantle their anti-Blackness; and to make the necessary changes to UWSOM so that it will become an institution that serves and protects its Black students and patients.

BAMM’s namesake comes from the Black revolutionaries James Baldwin, Assata Shakur, Malcolm X, and Marsha P. Johnson. We are indebted to their work and that of the countless other radical Black folks who have come before us.

“Their work as student activists needs to be recognized and celebrated as it will not only improve our education at UWSOM but will ultimately help UWSOM create a generation of doctors that is better equipped at serving the marginalized patients that suffer most at the hands of our medical system today.”

School of Nursing - Street Medics

The UW School of Nursing recognizes the nurses and healthcare workers who volunteer as street medics. When demonstrations protesting the death of George Floyd began last spring, many from the nursing community served on the frontlines of the protests to provide basic medical care.

These volunteer street medics were critical to providing the health care of protesters on site, treating everything from injuries sustained by rubber bullets to tear gas. While these individuals would like stay anonymous and their identities will not be publicized, we want to recognize them for their efforts for standing up for racial injustice during these unprecedented times.

The following is a firsthand account from a UW nursing student who served in this role at the Seattle and Portland protests. "My greatest take away from those days was the power of compassion. Exhausted from work, I would arrive to volunteer and found myself among other red-eyed and weary caregivers going through the same. There were anesthetists, emergency department doctors, family practitioners, dentists, nurses, nurse-aides, and buckets of paramedics who showed up every day to find heaps of donated supplies that they diligently organized in a makeshift outdoor triage center.

Even when police would destroy the supplies, pour out the water, and scatter meticulous inventory ledgers we would rebuild and start over again."Here are some of my thoughts about being a nurse and a street medic. The oppression and violence experienced by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color has a huge impact on health. If we truly care about health, then we must fight for liberation. As a nurse, I work as a street medic so I can use my particular skill set to support the dismantling of the racist institutions, including the healthcare system.”

School of Pharmacy - Edward J. Kelly, PhD

“Dr. Kelly’s philosophy is that giving back, sharing knowledge, and helping others who may have had fewer advantages and opportunities, are an essential part of science, and when done strategically and intentionally, result in more innovation and scientific impact."

His laboratory has gained a reputation among under-represented minority and first-generation college students at the UW and in the greater community for providing meaningful and rigorous experiences; everyone is consistently challenged to be their best, personally and scientifically.

”Dr. Kelly earned his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Washington in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Palmiter, developing transgenic and knockout mouse models to study the function of the metal-binding protein metallothionein. Following a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular toxicology with Dr. David Eaton, he ventured into Biotech, managing the Preclinical Bioanalytics group at Targeted Genetics Corporation, evaluating the safety and efficacy of gene therapeutics.

Upon his return to academia, his research interests have stayed within the realm of preclinical biology. One of Dr. Kelly’s passions is based upon the tenet that UW is a teaching institution, with his lab providing research opportunities to undergraduates to inspire them to reach higher than simply fulfilling their degree requirements. A champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in sciences for his entire career, Ed has served as a mentor for entering UW freshman in the GenOM-ALVA program (depts.washington.edu/genomics/hsprog/alva.shtml) for the past 15 years and frequently hosts diverse students from the Stipends for Training Aspiring Researchers (STAR) summer program (depts.washington.edu/hscmsp/programs/star/).“Dr. Kelly has always fostered a diverse group of researchers in his lab, particularly through granting opportunities for underrepresented undergraduates though the GenOM ALVA program. Lab meetings were an inclusive and comfortable environment where other undergraduates and I felt empowered to freely ask questions and learn.

My conversations with him have been, and continue to be, influential in my pursuit towards pharmacy and pharmaceutical research.”

School of Public Health - Students of Color for Public Health

2020-21Officers: Ishu Poudyal, Bianca Bonsol, Faye Alarcon, Najma Abdi, Jamie Lan, Makayla Ndamele, Kayla Guild-Taylor, Odalis Octaviano, Abigail Mulugeta

Students of Color for Public Health (SCPH) at the University of Washington is dedicated to providing a space for students of color interested in public health. SCPH shall provide personal, professional,  academic and social support for students passionate about the field. In addition, we strive to promote health within marginalized communities through education and service.

This group has been a vital source of support for undergraduate BIPOC students who are interested in Public Health when it comes to supporting community building, peer mentorship and identity based reflection especially in our current online environment. This year they have held discussion spaces about BIPOC solidarity and imposter syndrome.  "It has been so amazing watching the ways that they have mobilized to provide direct support to their community.  They are a group of passionate and justice driven students, and being able to bear witness to the amazing work they do is incredibly energizing and inspiring." 


School of Social Work - Kathy Taylor

The majority of Kathy Taylor’s career has been spent working in child welfare, where she has used her organizational, management and teaching skills to advance the professional development of social work practitioners. Since 1990, she has worked in a variety of capacities with the Department of Social & Health Services, most recently as a social and health program manager, program consultant, Family Voluntary Services supervisor and area administrator.

For three years, she served as a teaching associate and practicum supervisor for the Child Welfare Training & Advancement Program. There she developed and conducted trainings in child welfare practices for CWTAP students, developed student and staff recruitment plans, worked with CWTAP students to develop their practicum learning contracts and helped them  transition to the job market.

Coupled with her personal qualities of confidence, maturity, professionalism, and an even and thoughtful perspective she is turned to regularly for her wise counsel to her colleagues and is a sought-after partner by other Field Faculty in teaching student classes and Field Instructor trainings. 

UW Medicine - South Seattle COVID-19 Testing Team

UW Medicine was one of the first healthcare teams that mobilized efforts to test King County's vulnerable populations for the novel coronavirus. The COVID-19 mobile testing program began in the spring and has served more than 15,000 people.
"It’s important to go to areas where we find that there are high positivity rates so that we can identify individuals who are infected with the virus and isolate them quickly," says Dr. Lisa Chew, associate medical director of ambulatory services at Harborview Medical Center.

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the longstanding inequities that exist in our nation. We need to prioritize the health of individuals without privilege. In addition to providing access to high quality health services, we need to address the social determinants of health and environmental and community conditions that impact health to be successful. This requires collaboration among health care systems, communities and multisector organizations to identify health priorities, unite around shared goals, develop culturally tailored solutions and ultimately improve the health and well-being of the community during and long after the pandemic.”


Valuing Service

Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.  

— Martin Luther King
March for Integrated Schools, April 18, 1959

Photo by Warren K Leffler/Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Photo by Warren K Leffler/Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Kevin Nguyen, 13 years old, Kenmore Middle School

Kevin Nguyen, 13 years old, Kenmore Middle School

MLK Distinguished Service Award 2021
Estell Williams, MD

“When you think of people of color, women of color, women in general within academic spaces, the biggest thing that goes toward success is mentorship. That’s one place I can see myself having the biggest impact because that’s where I had the biggest impact made on my life. I had some really kickass mentors.”

As a School of Medicine faculty member and accomplished surgeon, Dr. Williams makes it a point to connect with medical students and residents to foster a sense of community. One program that Williams is especially proud to be a part of is UW Medicine’s Doctor for a Day, for which she now serves as the executive director. Doctor for a Day gives students of color the opportunity to learn more about careers in medicine.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when in-person visits to the WISH lab weren’t possible, Williams made sure to offer educational opportunities for students. One was hosting a Zoom session in collaboration with College Success Foundation for more than 40 high school students to discuss COVID-19 and how the pandemic has had a disparate impact on Black and Indigenous communities and other underrepresented groups.

This past June, in response to the killings of Black people by police and displays of systemic, entrenched racism across the country, Williams and her husband Edwin Lindo, JD, a lecturer in the School’s Department of Family Medicine, co-organized and led a peaceful and powerful March for Justice for the local healthcare community. Thousands of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers — many in lab coats and scrubs, in addition to face masks — marched from Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center to City Hall to demonstrate against racism and police violence.

As if being a surgeon, mentoring future doctors and leading the charge against racial inequities in healthcare wasn’t enough, Williams and her husband also started a library in May 2018. Named after their daughter, Estella, Estelita's Library in Beacon Hill is part library and part community hub. During non-pandemic times, you’re just as likely to find members chatting about politics in one corner as you are to spot folks reading books or playing chess in another.

These are just some examples of the work Dr. Williams leads outside of her day job as a busy surgeon and professor. Justice is at the center of everything she does and is why she was unanimously voted as this year’s Distinguished Service Award recipient. Estell’s name will be added to the MLK Distinguished Service Award plaque located in the Health Sciences lobby. Dr. Williams, we thank you for giving your time and talent so selflessly. Your work inspires future generations to be agents of change, voices for the underrepresented and champions for equity. 

Estell Williams, MD, was born and raised in Oakland, California, the youngest of seven siblings raised by a single father and the first in her family to attend college. After attending Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically black college and university (HBCU) for undergrad, she was unfortunately displaced by Hurricane Katrina and transferred to the University of San Francisco where she ultimately graduated college.

She went on to attend medical school and complete residency training in general surgery at the University of Washington. She is now an assistant professor of Surgery in the School of Medicine and an acute care surgeon in the Department of Surgery, Section of Emergency General Surgery. Professionally, she is very active in the medical and surgical community and serves on the Washington State Medical Association Foundation Board of Directors, co-chair of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons (SBAS) Medical Student Committee and serves on the SBAS Annual Scientific Assembly Planning Committee.

Additionally, she serves as the Executive Director for Doctor For A Day (DFAD) through the School of Medicine, an outreach program introducing underrepresented disadvantaged K-12 students to health careers.

Her passion for mentoring the future generations of health professions extends nationally, working with the Tour for Diversity national mentorship organization. Her passions include health justice, healthcare disparities, health outcomes, healthcare workforce diversity, ecosystem programming to increase the number of underrepresented minority students in medicine and healthcare careers.

In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband, 3-year-old daughter and 15-year-old niece who she is raising. She also is co-founder along with her husband of Estelita’s Social Justice Library, a community library and bookstore focused on uplifting voices of communities of color, named after her daughter.

Looking Ahead

Remember this in the darkest moments, when the work doesn’t seem worth it, and change seems just out of reach: out of our willingness to push through comes a tremendous power… use it  

— Stacey Abrams

Photo by Warren K Leffler/Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Photo by Warren K Leffler/Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,

High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Photo by © Flip Schulke/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Further Reading

Dr. Estell WilliamsUW MLK Distinguished Service Award 2021

UW Doctor for a Day: uwdfad.org/

Estelita’s Libraryestelitaslibrary.com/

Pat DawsonAccomplished Surgeon and Healthcare Equity Leader

Claire Gwayi-ChoreUW MLK Community Service Award, School of Public Health 2020

Dr. Ben DanielsonUW MLK Distinguished Service Award 2008

Office of Healthcare Equity, UW Medicine

UW Medicine: Commitment to Diversity

UW School of Medicine: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

UW School of Nursing: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

UW School of Pharmacy: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion sop.washington.edu/about/diversity-equity-and-inclusion/

UW School of Public Health: Equity, Diversity & Inclusion sph.washington.edu/about/equity-diversity-and-inclusion

UW School of Social Work: Race & Equity Initiative washington.edu/raceequity/school-and-college-profiles/school-of-social-work/

UW School of Dentistry: Diversity Statement dental.washington.edu/oepd/about-us/diversity-statement/ 

The Health Sciences Center Minority Students Program

Contact: UW MLK Planning Committee at uwmlkcmt@uw.edu