The life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be celebrated Monday throughout the nation and the world.
Dr. King, born Jan. 15, 1929, was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968 at the age of 39. Almost immediately, there were calls to declare a federal holiday in his honor. Legislation to do so passed in 1983 with the first nationwide observance in 1986.
An iconic civil rights advocate, if he’d lived King would be almost 93 years old today. One can only imagine what could have been and what he’d think of the world now. The profound impact he had in such a short span of years is an inspiration as well as a challenge to all of us to do more.
Locally, two events drew our attention.
Unfortunately, for the second year in row, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. – Albert Owens Scholarship Breakfast has been canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Money raised from the breakfast goes toward scholarships for Meriden students going on to higher education. The breakfast was an opportunity for people in the area to come together and remember the lives of civil rights leaders and show support to exceptional students.
Owens was Meriden’s first human rights director and one of the founders of the Meriden-Wallingford branch of the NAACP. Rhudean Raye, who founded the breakfast 35 years ago, said an event may be held later.
City Councilor Michael Rohde, who serves on the board of directors, said, “in the meantime we are still collecting funds for scholarships, which we will give out this year again.” For more information on how to donate to the fundraiser, email email@example.com.
In Cheshire, the town in partnership with the state’s Commission on Human Rights is holding an inclusive, anti-racism Children’s March and Bell Ringing Ceremony for Unity to mark the day. Writer Joy Vanderlek covered the story for the Record-Journal.
Cheryl Sharp, an attorney and CHRO deputy director, said it’s important that Cheshire is involved. “It’s good to come together to show solidarity and unity in Cheshire, even though the percentage of people of color here is very small,” she said.
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church is hosting the events. The Rev. Sandy Staynor said, “since the death of George Floyd, members of the congregation have formed a racial healing group that actively seeks to understand the history and impacts of racism in our country.”
Sharp said the significance of the children leading the march cannot be overstated. “In 1963, inspired by the civil rights work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., children marched in Birmingham, Alabama, for equality, justice, freedom and dignity, and they sparked a positive change in this nation … On Jan. 17, 2022, we will solidify and honor their efforts and those of Dr. King by marching in this little suburban town of Cheshire led by our children, with the goal of unifying our community.”
The Childrens March begins at 1 p.m., at St. Peter’s, with a brief ceremony. Jeremy Works, 8, and his twin brother Zeke are among the Cheshire residents who will speak.
“I want discrimination to stop,” said Zeke, adding, “everyone should be treated fairly.”
Jeremy said all people should feel safe and comfortable around one another and that everyone should be respected.
“The time is always right to do what is right,” said King.
Zeke and Jeremy are doing what is right and we can follow that example by adding our voices and support to continuing King’s legacy. As King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”