MLK Commission gets new Park City nonprofit leader
June 23, 2015
The Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission is now headed by a Park City nonprofit executive. Rob Harter, executive director at the Christian Center of Park City, was appointed chair of the commission by the governor earlier this month, after serving as a member for the past year.
"I was surprised to be on the commission in the first place and then very surprised to be nominated for chair," he told The Park Record. "It was a big surprise."
The commission was formed in 1991 and its mission is "to serve the people of Utah and involve all sectors — public and private — in a conscious effort to promote diversity, equity and human rights." It coordinates ceremonies and activities around the state on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 18, and takes on other efforts throughout the year.
Harter said the commission often takes on a supporting role, working with and encouraging organizations and nonprofits that reflect King’s ideals. He said that King was "such a rare person" in his ability to win so many to his vision.
"I think of someone who was able to rally people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and beliefs. Even though he integrated his faith with his view of social justice, he was able to pull people from different faiths, different backgrounds, to come together," he said. "That’s part of his legacy — what a broad group of people have been inspired by him since. And he continues to inspire through his words, his speeches, his quotes, etc."
The commission has started monthly "King Conversations" this year, and the next one is scheduled for July 1 at the Christian Center of Park City.
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"The idea is each month we have different things that we’re doing to promote the legacy of Dr. King and we’re trying to support different aspects of what he talked about," Harter said. "So we had an event promoting women’s rights last month, and talked about women in leadership and things like that."
For the July 1 event, Harter is working on gathering community leaders, like the mayor of Park City and City Council members.
"We really want to hear from local leaders — Summit County and Park City, in this case — what can we do to work together better, the county, the state, in terms of promoting social justice, making sure that we’re aware of the needs of minority communities and things like that," he said.
The commission issued a formal response to last week’s mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in which Harter said "May love win the day and may we all be reminded again to do all that we can to work towards justice, peace and above all, love."
"That’s a situation that has brought us together, as a commission, and really as a country," he said.
"I think about Dr. King and during his day, how many struggles he had to face and how many setbacks he had to face. So I think we’d be Pollyannaish to say it’s going to change tomorrow," he cautioned. Still, he is encouraged by the "united condemnation" from people of all backgrounds.
"I think it’s something that is a challenge on one hand, but it’s something that can bring us together," he said.