By Matthew DeFour The Wisconsin State Journal
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Valerie Daniels-Carter is the multimillionaire CEO of V & J Holding Companies, which owns more than 100 franchise units under the Burger King, Pizza Hut, Haagen-Dazs and Coffee Beanery brands. At a ceremony to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day she encouraged the audience to persevere in achieving King's dream.
The Wisconsin State Journal
A multimillionaire Milwaukee restaurant franchisee shared her success story as an example of the perseverance that the civil rights movement must continue to embrace at Madison's 37th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony on Monday.
"This is what you have to understand," Valerie Daniels- Carter said. "It is not about who you are. It is not about where you're going. It is about your perseverance to get where you're going."
The ceremony, the longest- running in the country, included musical performances, awards and a reading of excerpts from King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
But it avoided some of the more pointed political rhetoric of past events, even as racial tensions have flared in recent years due to police shootings, the Black Lives Matter movement, the resurgence of white supremacist groups and, most recently, Republican President-elect Donald Trump publicly feuding with civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia.
Ronald Morris, an admissions adviser for multicultural recruitment at UW-Green Bay, wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt while accepting the Heritage Award for social justice. A protester with a banner referencing the 2015 shooting death of Tony Robinson by a Madison police officer was escorted out by Capitol Police.
Daniels-Carter mentioned that King started his work on civil rights in the 1950s, "which we all know was not the greatest time in America."
The entrepreneur, a member of the Green Bay Packers board of directors and a shareholder in the Milwaukee Bucks, told the hundreds gathered in the Capitol rotunda, including Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and other local and state public officials, that she was standing before them because she represents "the future Dr. King could not see, but he fought for."
In 1982, the Milwaukee entrepreneur who got her start in banking applied to Burger King to open her first franchise and was told by the company they did not receive her application.
She sent it in twice more, making sure to receive a receipt confirming it was delivered, but again was told her application was nowhere to be found.
She set up an early morning meeting in Minneapolis with the company's vice president of franchisees and waited all day outside his office until he told her he couldn't meet because he was going hunting. So she said she traveled with him to a Minnetonka cabin where she felt out of place as a black woman in a group with 14 white men.
When they called a driver to take her back to a hotel, she said she memorized the directions so she could find her way back to the cabin the next day.
Daniels-Carter is now a multimillionaire CEO of V & J Holding Companies, which owns more than 100 franchise units under the Burger King, Pizza Hut, Haagen-Dazs and Coffee Beanery brands. She and her brother founded the company and opened their first Burger King franchise in 1984.
Emcee Jonathan Overby, an ethnomusicologist at Edgewood College, called King a "great tree" who has fallen, and urged others "to plant new trees along our journey and pathway" by finding ways to serve the poor, the marginalized and the disenfranchised.
"Sadly his dream remains for some in our great nation deferred for another time," Overby said.