Mayor O'Neal and Congresswoman Foushee join Durham Tech for annual MLK celebration

Durham Technical Community College hosted their 38th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Friday to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King. 

Durham’s first African American female mayor, Elaine O’Neal, and 4th District Congresswoman, Valerie Foushee joined Durham Tech’s faculty and staff for the event on Durham Tech’s Main Campus.  

The event included selections from Durham Tech’s MLK Choir, presentations from the 2023 I Have a Dream Essay Award winners, and reflections on Dr. King’s life and impact. 

Image of MLK celebration
President J.B. Buxton (left), Mayor Elaine O'Neal, Congresswoman Valerie Foushee, and Jacqueline Mitchell (right)

“The motivation behind today’s event is disparities, inequities, and social injustices of our mental health systems,” said Jacqueline Mitchell, Co-Chair of the MLK committee. 

The MLK committee chose the theme of the celebration to focus on mental health and encouraging people to take necessary steps to live a happy and healthier life. Mitchell highlighted that Dr. King had experienced depression and kept it a secret due to the mental health stigma at that time. 

Mayor O’Neal was the keynote speaker and spoke about the challenges of mental health in the community.  

“We have to make it a priority and look at our most vulnerable populations, that’s what MLK stood for,” said O’Neal. “He stood for those who had been marginalized, and he was not silent about that.” 

O’Neal also spoke about people suffering with mental health issues through the pandemic and how many continue with those issues today.  

“We are one community, we are responsible for each other and how we live,” said O’Neal.  

Congresswoman Foushee talked about Dr. King’s vision for a community without racism, injustice, discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice. She also spoke about MLK day being a day of service that unites people from different backgrounds.  

“Let’s all commit to be good stewards and work with one another to serve others and provide a meaningful change in our communities. Not only today but each and every day,” said Foushee. “It is our moral obligation to build a better and healthier society.” 

O’Neal and Foushee both encouraged the attendees to take action in making the community a better place and provided opportunities to engage. 

During the celebration, Gilbert Umberger, Co-Chair of the MLK committee, presented scholarship awards to the winners of Durham Tech’s 2023 I Have A Dream Essay contest: 

  • Ameerah McNair 
  • Daya Smith 

Those winners presented their essay presentations and described their personal journeys of perseverance and determination to follow their dreams and reach their goals. 

For more information, contact Communications and Public Relations Coordinator, Desiree Patrick at