Embracing Legacy: Reflecting on MLK Day and My Family History

January 29, 2024

Earlier this month, the U.S. G2 team, alongside millions of Americans, observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Despite January drawing to a close, MLK’s impact still remains top-of-mind for me, and sets the tone for the upcoming journey into February which is Black History Month. Perhaps for some, MLK Day served as another 3-day holiday. But for me, I continue to reflect on the profound legacy of Dr. King—a legacy that not only resonates in his stance against injustice but also intertwines with a unique chapter of my family history.

Dr. King's connection to my hometown of Boston always serves as a salient starting point in my reflection of MLK's vast legacy. MLK ventured to Boston to earn his PhD in Systematic Theology at Boston University, also my alma mater, and graduated in 1955. During his time at BU, he joined the Boston-based Sigma chapter of the prestigious Black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha in 1952. For those that don’t know, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc, was the first Black fraternity founded in 1906 at Cornell University. 

What makes this significant for me is the personal link to my grandfather, Herman Hemingway, who, in a twist of fate, pledged at the same time to the same fraternity, and happened to become MLK's line brother.

My grandfather was an undergrad at the time and became the first Black man to graduate from Brandeis University while MLK was getting his doctorate. They would often have chapter meetings in my great-grandfather’s home in Roxbury, MA, as it was conveniently located for everyone to gather. 

Unfortunately, my grandfather passed in 2020, but for many years, he was the last surviving member of the Sigma chapter. He lived in Boston and wore many hats and titles— a practicing attorney, civil rights activist, a criminal justice professor, and a veteran. He lived a very rich, influential, and exciting life filled with travel, art, music, adventure, and love. I could probably write a whole book about him. However, I  can’t mention him without also highlighting his brilliant wife Barbara Hemingway who was a nurse practitioner, professor, artist, activist, and world traveler who supported him in all his endeavors. 

Last year on January 13, 2023, the City of Boston honored MLK’s indelible contributions and legacy by unveiling the Embrace Monument. The monument is a beautiful bronze historic sculpture dedicated to MLK and Coretta Scott King's love and leadership. This monument is so grand and inspired by a photo that was captured when MLK was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. It also embodies the love between these two historical icons as their love story began in Boston when they first met in 1952.

During the Embrace Boston ceremony last year, 69 civil rights leaders were also honored with plaques circulating the statue. These leaders were honored for embodying and embracing the mission of MLK and leading civil rights and social justice efforts in Boston from 1950 –1975. My grandfather, Herman Hemingway, was selected as one of the honorees. 

My mother, Myra Hemingway, was able to receive the honor on his behalf, and I had the fortunate opportunity of attending this ceremony with her.  It was a beautiful ceremony and exciting to be a part of history through my grandfather. It really highlights the importance of family legacy and community. I’m very proud of the legacy my grandfather built in Boston and the unique connection he had to Dr. King, and I hope to bring a piece of him and his influence wherever I go.

While MLK Day has come to an end, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 's legacy will live on forever. As we gear up to enter Black History Month, let’s be reminded that this time is for honoring, remembering, and celebrating the contributions of Black people and their fundamental impact in shaping and founding America. I hope we all feel empowered to participate and share in the celebration of Black History Month this coming February!

Embracing Legacy: Reflecting on MLK Day and My Family History As we approach Black History Month, G2’s Alanna Iwuh reflects on the profound legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. —a legacy that resonates in his stance against injustice and also intertwines a unique chapter of her own family history. https://learn.g2.com/hubfs/Content-MLKPost-FeaturedImage@2x.png
Alanna Iwuh Alanna is a Market Research Analyst at G2 specializing in marketing software. She is passionate about market research and data-driven insights and is fascinated by psychology and human behavior. She also serves as a co-lead of the Ebony & Allies ERG at G2. In her free time, Alanna is somewhere traveling the world, shopping at farmer’s markets, or admiring art. https://learn.g2.com/hubfs/IMG_1348.jpg