Remembers the work of MLK
The students chosen to speak were Kajal Patel of the fifth grade, Wyatt Westlake of the fourth, and Christian Santos and Donovan Palmer of the eighth grade.
“As one of the most diverse communities in the nation, we certainly understand the importance of his ideas and power,” said Curtatone.
A surprise speaker turned out in the form of Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian. Koutoujian spoke of a conversation he had had with his eight-year-old son that morning, in which his son repeated the story of how Rosa Parks was told to sit in the back of the “school bus.”
“The beautiful thing about my children or any child is that they are born with a blank slate,” he said. “They are born without prejudice. They don’t understand why anyone would ever considering putting someone at the back of this bus or why anyone else would have to drink at a different fountain.”
Koutoujian said that Dr. King’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ personally influenced him, as it was a testament to “why it is so important that we in public safety never lose sight of our true purpose to help our fellow man.“
“As [Dr. King] said ‘law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice, and when they fail in this purpose, they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.’”
“It is my firm belief that by engaging those who have found themselves on the wrong path from a place of accountability, coupled with compassion and direction, we can put them on the right path towards participating in a positive way in their society once again.”
Later, William “Mo” Cowan, Governor Deval Patrick’s Chief of Staff, delivered the keynote address. In his address, Cowan stressed the need to continue striving for a better community, and urged the audience to give back as much as they could to a society that was built upon human dignity and fairness.
“Dr. King was a man of immeasurable courage and deep conviction,” said Cowan. “He had a vision of a world where hate has no place. Where opportunity and equality reign above all. A place where he called the ‘beloved community’. In Dr. King’s beloved community, we will not stand for poverty, hunger and homelessness, because human decency will not allow it. In his beloved community, all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be wiped away by deep and sincere respect for each other and our diversity.”
“The journey to this beloved community is not without pain and sacrifice. Dr. King showed us this. At every turn, he was confronted by hatred and too often violence. Yet he stood his moral ground and led us forward.”
Cowan related that his community in North Carolina remained a segregated community even years after Dr. King’s death. He remembered that the Ku Klux Klan still had a presence, and decades after King’s speech; he saw a cross burned in his neighborhood.
As for the fight for equality today, he said the battle continued into new and more treacherous territory. “You need look no further than the daily news reports describing the growing income disparity among us and the ballooning poverty rates.”
Community service, he said, was the way forward, and he concluded by quoting Dr. King. “Let us rise up with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination and let us move on in these power days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be.”
The assembly also included performances by the Somerville High School Chorus, the Y We Prayze dance group, and JG of the Meggatoons. This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Awards went to individual Lisa Davidson, with the organization award going to the Somerville Homeless Coalition, and a posthumous award going to Lou Ann David.
~Photos by Andrew Firestone