Malkki wins Friendship Council’s MLK Scholarship

Published 3:51 pm Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Award to be presented Saturday at MLK Jr. event
The Thermal Belt Friendship Council recently announced that Kari Malkki of Polk County High School is this year’s recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship. Malkki will be recognized Saturday, Jan. 14 at the Friendship Council’s annual MLK Jr. Commemoration celebration, which will be held at the Tryon Fine Arts Center at 7 p.m.
Each year, the Friendship Council sponsors a $500 scholarship for a graduating high school student who demonstrates a commitment to the community, to school and to diversity. As part of the application, students are asked to discuss how their life promotes social and racial equality and diversity issues in their community. Malkki’s essay discussed not only her role in the local community but also her time living in Nampula, Mozambique.
She said, “We didn’t speak the language, Portuguese, nor did we share the prevalent religion, Islam. While we were not wealthy by Western standards, in the world’s seventh poorest country, we were rich.”
Malkki discussed growing up as a Finnish/Ugandan girl, saying, “To the world around me, I’ve been black, white and somehow Latino; rich, poor and somewhere in between; a city girl, a redneck and a part of a village connected by red-dirt roads.”
Malkki also shared how the attacks on 9/11 have impacted the lives of people throughout the world, but ended her essay by saying, “Never have I found a place where I blend in, but in all of these places I’ve manage to fit in, and to learn from the communities of which I become a part.  Differences in color, class, sexual orientation or faith are issues I have grown up disregarding, and to create a world in which equality and social justice prevail, this is a perspective that everyone must share. Gandhi insisted, and I firmly believe that the solution to the crisis of inequality throughout the world is for one to be the change one wishes to see.”
Members of the scholarship committee commented that it was a difficult selection this year because of the quality of applications that were received; however, Malkki’s essay helped her rise to the top.
Dr. Joseph Fox, Friendship Council president, said, “Kari is living the mission of the Friendship Council by bridging the racial and cultural gaps between diverse populations.”
Thermal Belt Friendship Council was born in April 1986, as a result of concerned black and white citizens’ response to a Ku Klux Klan planned march in downtown Tryon. Local citizens first met in a private home to discuss the issue, and then held a public meeting at the Congregational Church. The meeting was attended by a N.C. State Bureau of Investigation agent who stated that the best way to deal with the Klan was to ignore the march. Most people stayed home, shop owners closed their doors and the march was not a success.
Black and white citizens began meeting at each other’s homes over the years to spread unity within the community. Today, the Friendship Council members meet monthly at local restaurants and every second Tuesday at Roseland Community Center at 7 p.m.
To learn more about the Thermal Belt Friendship Council, visit http://friendshipcouncil.homestead.com.
– article submitted by Lynnea Stadelmann