Hilliard Headlines: Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. is start to celebration of city's diversity

Julia Baxter
Guest Columnist

Hilliard City Council voted Dec. 14 to officially recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official city holiday starting this year.   

As a result, city offices will be closed Jan. 18. The city will no longer close its buildings in October for Columbus Day, so we will continue to remain open for business to serve our community the same number of days each year.  

Julia Baxter

Some might say this decision to officially acknowledge Dr. King’s legacy was overdue in Hilliard. Many other communities – and the federal government – already had taken similar action years ago. But as Dr. King once said, “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”  

Given our country’s national, regional and local discourse in 2020 surrounding the subjects of racism, diversity and civil rights, the time definitely was “ripe to do right” in our community. Council’s unanimous support of this resolution was an important statement about our beliefs and priorities as a city, as well as a recognition of Dr. King’s important work.  

It should be acknowledged that our city’s collective-bargaining units also agreed to make this modification in their contracts, reflecting that they, too, see the importance of this change.   

Hilliard is an increasingly diverse community, with growing African American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Asian and other populations. We are religiously diverse, with a significant Muslim community (including an Islamic school and offices for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.) 

So, yes, the time was ripe for this change, but this action will not be the end of our efforts to celebrate Hilliard’s diversity. One way we will do this is by finding appropriate ways to acknowledge King’s legacy beyond a government holiday.  

To that end, we are reaching out to our community to ask how our residents think we might best recognize King’s message of hope.  

Other communities sponsor educational programs, public art, community get-togethers, parades and activities that promote and celebrate diversity. How should Hilliard take on this same charge? How can we “use our time creatively” to do right? Should we create community opportunities for volunteerism? Celebrations of diversity? Develop charitable ways to give to others? Offer educational or cultural programs?   

We want to hear ideas members of our community may have for what the city might do in the future to recognize and celebrate Dr. King’s legacy. Residents are invited to go to Talk2Us.hilliardohio.com to share their ideas.  

Based on the feedback we have received so far, most of our community supports the beliefs and intent that inspired council’s decision to make this change at this time.  

And, as Dr. King said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”  

Together, we will continue to move forward.  

Julia Baxter is director of human resources for the city of Hilliard.