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A First Candle for Martin Luther King's Birthday
an article by Vilma

If you throw a birthday party, will anyone come? That was the dilemma facing some women in Glastonbury, CT, a mostly white suburb of Hartford, CT. There had never been a town-wide celebration of the Martin Luther King Holiday. Joined by mutual concern, these women felt that the day should be celebrated. They spent months planning, arranging for speakers and musicians, and exploring community resources. As the date approached, the community was invited through articles in local newspapers, and fliers. At last January 21 arrived. Would anyone come? In spite of snowy weather, scores of people did come to Glastonbury High School to celebrate and pay tribute to Dr. King and his accomplishments.

A local African drumming group opened the festivities. Statements of Dr. King, and of civil rights activist Nelson Mandela, were used in a prayer emphasizing action, courage and tolerance. A talk giving an historical perspective to King's work provided depth, and gospel music added to the atmosphere.

A highlight of the day was a performance by historical interpreter and storyteller, Guy Peartree, called "Martin Luther King: his legacy, speeches and role in the larger mosaic of civil rights issues." Mr. Peartree used King's words to deliver an impassioned speech encouraging involvement in caring for the rights of all citizens.

The formal observance concluded with a "Call To Action" by Shannon Perry of the National Conference for Community and Justice, a co-sponsor of the event.

After the formal program people could try their hand at drumming or art projects. A video of the "I Have A Dream" speech was shown and discussed by viewers. Videos of town residents remembering the civil rights era also were available.

This celebration and tribute to Dr. King was also a prelude to a series of "Community Conversations on Race which will take place with various groups in town.


Question(s) related to this article:

What's the message to us today from Martin Luther King, Jr.?,

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Latest reader comment:

I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would be happy that "drum majors for justice" are using the latest technologies to advance the cause of racial justice. The "just Democracy Blog" is a wonderful resource . One of the goals of the bloggers is to advance the national dialogue on racial justice. I recommend joing the Advancement Project mailing list.

This report was posted on April 4, 2002.