Perez-Jordan spreads love, justice at CCD’s 25th annual MLK gala

Carmen Perez-Jordan reflects on her life’s work and shares with the crowd attending the 25th anniversary (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

For half her life, Carmen Perez-Jordan has championed for the rights of others, spreading a message of justice, love and peace.

She was the keynote speaker for the Community Celebrating Diversity 25th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Living the Dream celebration Wednesday, Jan. 16 at Embassy Suites by Hilton, 5001 N. Scottsdale Road.

Her message delivered to a crowd of many ethnicities came from her personal experience that ignited in her the desire to make a difference. Recalling that day of her sister’s death — the knock on the door, her brother screaming, “she’s dead, she’s dead!” — she was honored to speak at such an event on what she termed the “death anniversary” of her sister killed on Jan. 16, 1994.

“Keep believing that you can make a difference in the world,” Mrs. Perez-Jordan said. “I had a dream to continue … the life and legacy of my sister.

“We are living the dream. We are taking a breath. We are taking a stand.”

Detailing how she resolved then to channel her pain and grief to “transform the world,” 25 years later, Mrs. Perez-Jordan aims to motivate people to march toward positive change in their communities and impact the world.

From fighting for juvenile rights to women’s rights, she’s spearheading movements and crafting policies.

She’s worked in a leadership role in the Women’s March on Washington that united more than five million people around the world who marched to take a stand against hatred, bigotry and voicing women’s human rights. While she solidified the march in 2017, she credited community organizers who got the event together in minimal time.

Mrs. Perez-Jordan took a brief moment before the program to describe her life’s work as executive director of a nonprofit named The Gathering for Justice, founded by famous artist/activist, Harry Belafonte; being co-founder of Justice League NYC and founder of Justice League CA task forces to advance the juvenile and criminal justice reform agenda.

She noted her newest role of being a mother of a four-month-old baby boy, who she fondly called, “Baby Justice.”

He, like his mother, is already a world traveler and was attending the Scottsdale event with his father at the helm. They are headed to Washington, D.C. for the upcoming Women’s March after they leave Scottsdale.

“I have to say being a working mom is not easy but so many women have done it before me,” Mrs. Perez-Jordan said. “He has now become the reason why I wake up in the morning, fighting injustice even harder.”

She got emotional seeing footage of her many global travels promoting peace, visiting jails, marching with activists and promoting Dr. King’s core nonviolent principals she described as being a courageous positive force, not being passive but disciplined; attacking forces of evil and not people doing evil; building deep relationships, seeing people for their humanity and having conversations; understanding who Dr. King was and what he was about.

“Not only are we celebrating his life in the Civil Rights Movement, but it is evident in many things today,” Mrs. Perez-Jordan said to the audience. “The universe is on the side of justice.

“I believe that if we truly accept each other in ways that others may not see them, we would have a different world. There’s a lane for all of us. There is an opportunity to build the beloved community Dr. King was talking about.”

She encouraged people to have courageous conversations while softening one’s “hearts to not throw away people.

Scottsdale resident Alexia Norton Jones, granddaughter of late book publisher W.W. Norton and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. attorney/speechwriter Clarence Jones, stood out in the crowd of listeners as she raised her hand when asked if anyone had personal accounts involving the tumultuous times that included sit-ins at diners and the thick of the Civil Rights Movement with Dr. King.

After the program, she detailed how her family helped with Dr. King’s dream to unify the races. She remembered when the icon stayed at her family’s New York home when she was a child.

“He had a personal relationship with my family. My childhood was spent doing peace marches,” Ms. Norton Jones said, fighting back tears. “It’s kind of weird being in Scottsdale where I am the only person who actually knew Dr. King.

“I think it is really important that we are doing this.”

From the Mistress of Ceremony Susan Casper of Sonoran Living Live to Mayor Jim Lane, the evening included commendations for Scottsdale’s efforts in promoting diversity and the values of Dr. King. Greetings were sent from Las Vegas in a letter from the event’s founder, Sandra Rembrandt.

In addition to APS and other corporate sponsors acknowledged, Sharon Cini, city of Scottsdale’s Diversity and Inclusion manager, and Gary Griggs, a Scottsdale Unified School District educator were given “Diversity Champions” awards for their selfless work in the community.

Other notable mentions were the efforts by the CCD board, namely Scottsdale Police Department Assistant Chief Helen Gandara, who helps plan the annual MLK event.

“Helen is the bridge. She is the person to make sure people are treated with love and dignity,” added the keynote speaker of her friend who she shares a common interest with her in working for juveniles and the community.


Independent Newsmedia News Services Specialist Delarita Ford can be reached by e-mail at dford@newszap.com.

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