January 17, 2022

Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Today, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of my favorite quotes by Dr. King is "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'' This quote rings true for so many of us involved with the work of OPWDD. Our staff and the staff of our providers strive every day to do for others – for the people we all support.

As a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s, Dr. King also sought to create a world that embraces equity for all people. At OPWDD, we are committed to ensuring equitable services for all people with developmental disabilities. To that end, in 2021, OPWDD adopted and committed to a five-year Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategic plan, to build and sustain a diverse workforce, ensuring equity in our programs, and embracing inclusion as a core value.

We are also dedicating a portion of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to examining and promoting greater DEI within the agency. With the ARPA monies, we’ll fund the Georgetown University National Center for Cultural Competence to administer grants to service providers, implement a policy review, and plan and implement short-term strategies to enhance DEI in our service system.  These investments will build on our existing and robust multi-cultural service provider system. 

As part of New York State’s celebration of Dr. King’s life, there are couple of initiatives I would like to encourage you to be aware of and take part in. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Art and Essay Exhibition features K-12 student artwork and essays inspired by Dr. King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence. A virtual gallery will be available for you to view from Jan. 17 to Feb. 28.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Statewide Food Drive, which is currently running until Feb. 11, is supported by New York state agencies – OPWDD included – as well as community-based organizations that collect food and monetary donations in every region of the state – from the major urban areas of New York City, Albany, and Buffalo, to the rural towns of Sherburne, and Ogdensburg. The food drive is co-sponsored by the Food Bank Association of New York State.

And the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Statewide Book Drive, which begins on Feb. 21 and runs through April 22, that has agencies and organizations collecting new or gently used programs in the Capital District to Buffalo and within New York City.

Finally, I invite you to join me in watching the Statewide Broadcast of the State MLK, Jr. Celebration event airing on Monday, Jan. 17, starting at 10 a.m. on PBS stations throughout New York State.



Kerri Neifeld
Acting Commissioner