Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Massacheusetts honours Martin Luther King Jr.
Some 1,000 people honored Martin Luther King Jr. this morning at the city's annual holiday breakfast in his name, remembering the slain civil rights leader as a transformative force for good and pledging to build upon his legacy.
"He showed us the path," said Martha Coakley, the state's attorney general, who paid tribute to King as an inspiring figure who "fought for the dignity of every human being."
In a well-received speech at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, keynote speaker Melissa Harris-Perry drew parallels between today's divisive political climate and 1967, the year of King's final book "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?"
"We have a right, and a responsibility, to choose community," Harris-Perry, a Princeton professor of politics and African-American Studies, said to applause. "We can do it. We must do it."
Harris-Perry noted that King wrote his book after the passage of two pieces of landmark legislation - the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. At the time, hopes for further gains were high but proved hard-won in the face of fierce resistance, causing deep disillusionment.
The historic 2008 election of President Barack Obama, she said, had sparked similar resistance and disappointment.
"It was a period of backlash," she said, referring to 1967. "We were told it was all moving too fast."
"I see critical parallels between 1967 and 2011," she told the crowd, which included many African-American leaders and activists from Boston and across the region.
In the wake of the shootings in Arizona, Americans face a similar choice between chaos and community, she said.
"We have a choice to grasp onto the story of Dr. King and make it our own," she said.
At the start of the breakfast, a moment of silence was observed for the victims of the Arizona shootings.
Events honoring King were held across the region today. Governor Deval Patrick was scheduled to attend a celebration in Springfield this morning, as well as the Boston Children’s Chorus' tribute concert this evening at Jordan Hall.
In Jamaica Plain, 500 volunteers were gathering for a day of service, including making scarves and dental-care kits for the homeless and baby blankets for low-income families.
In earlier remarks at the breakfast, US Senator Scott Brown praised King as a "visionary" who fought courageously for justice, and inspired the best in people.
"He wanted us to be better," he said, adding that people need to set aside partisan differences for "what's best for our state and country."
"We're all just people," Brown said. "I wish we could do just do the right thing and get along."
By Peter Schworm, Globe Staff
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