N.H. recalls King’s message
Residents here, across country pay tribute to civil rights leader through words, deeds
Honore Murenzi raises his hands as Gov. Hassan and Russell Weatherspoon invited everyone to either ring bells or raise their hands to "let freedom ring" during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Community Celebration at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral community center in Manchester on Monday, January 20, 2014. The coalition presented Honore Murenzi with the Martin Luther King, Jr. award and William E. Davis, Sr. with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The celebration was one of many events honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. around the state.
(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
Kwesi Addo-Yeboah, 3, sings "We Shall Overcome" with the rest of attendees of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Community Celebration at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral community center in Manchester on Monday, January 20, 2014. At the end of the celebration, everyone in attendance formed a circle and sang together.
(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
Like others across the country, New Hampshire residents remembered Martin Luther King Jr. through speeches and deeds yesterday.
“Since my childhood, where I witnessed segregation firsthand, the principle that discrimination has no place in our country has stayed close to my heart,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said. “In fact, one of my proudest days as governor was signing into law the bill making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a state holiday.”
Shaheen, who spoke at several celebrations in Portsmouth and Manchester, said she also understood that King’s dream has yet to be fully achieved.
“While it’s true that because of his efforts it is no longer acceptable as a matter of law to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender or ethnicity, it’s also an unfortunate reality that all Americans still do not enjoy equal protections under the law because of their sexual orientation or that social mobility is slowly grinding to a halt,” she said.
Gov. Maggie Hassan yesterday spoke in Hollis at a Southern New Hampshire Outreach for Black Unity breakfast and addressed a St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral celebration in Manchester.
“Dr. King’s vision of equality, inclusion and peace that would lead to a brighter future for our people is a true reflection of our shared belief in the value and freedom of every person,” she said in a statement.
Among those honored in Manchester was Honore Murenzi, an African immigrant who arrived speaking little English, found work teaching French, and eventually founded the New American Africans, a group based in Concord and dedicated to helping refugees and immigrants get access to services.
In memory of King, AmeriCorps programs across the state held a food drive – encouraging people to volunteer yesterday to honor King’s legacy and make it a “day on, not a day off.” AmeriCorps members and Saint Anselm College students also gathered at the school’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics to engage in a reflection on both King’s life and the statewide need for food after the holidays.
Events elsewhere in the country struck similar notes.
At Ebenezer Baptist Church in King’s hometown of Atlanta, civil rights leaders and members of King’s family spoke about poverty, violence, health care and voting rights, all themes from the civil rights struggle that still resonate.
“There is much work that we must do,” King’s daughter Bernice King said. “Are we afraid, or are we truly committed to the work that must be done?”
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said not many states could boast a native son who merited a national holiday. “But we Georgians can,” he told the audience. Deal said this year he would work with state legislators to find a way to honor King at the Georgia Capitol, which drew a standing ovation. He did not give any specifics, but civil rights leaders have suggested a statue.
“I think that more than just saying kind thoughts about him, we ought to take action ourselves,” said Deal, a Republican. “That’s how we embed truth into our words. I think it’s time for Georgia’s leaders to follow in Dr. King’s footsteps and take action, too.”
President Obama honored King’s legacy of service by helping a soup kitchen prepare its daily meals. Obama took his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha to DC Central Kitchen, which is a few minutes away from the White House.
New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, marked the day by talking about economic inequality, saying it was “closing doors for hard-working people in this city and all over this country.”
“We have a city sadly divided between those with opportunity, with the means to fully partake of that opportunity, and those whose dreams of a better life are being deferred again and again,” he told an audience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
At the King Memorial in Washington, D.C., Arthur Goff, of Frederick, Md., visited with family members. He said the holiday was often a time to catch up on chores and other things, but his 6-year-old son is getting old enough to learn more about King, and he said it was a good time to make their first visit.
Goff’s mother, 68-year-old Loretta Goff, said she was in nursing school in New York when King died in 1968, and she remembers it being a traumatic time. Now, she said, everyone is responsible for continuing King’s legacy.
“There is still so much more to do,” she said.