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Honoring Our Past, Evaluating Our Present

February 28, 2011

Instead of facing the typical frigid temperatures of winter, our snow-delayed event to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was held on the balmiest day of the year thus far (February 18). A student sang an a capella rendition of the Negro National Anthem. This poignant hymn reminds us of the trials and tribulations of African Americans throughout the history of this nation. Other students recited excerpts from Dr. King’s most well-known speeches, demonstrating his prescience and his ability to concisely craft a message to lift the soul as well as to challenge the time. But the power of the event came from the personal message brought by our invited guest, Reverend Dr. Shelley D. Best, president and CEO of the Conference of Churches. She spoke of growing up in the only Black family in a small town in northwestern Connecticut, and helped us see through her eyes the naïve surprise of a child and the trepidation of a mother discovering a burning cross on their front lawn. We considered with her how the struggle for justice is not something that we can leave in the past. Her call for transformational leadership was also evocative. Describing the need for justice-seekers and memory-holders, she urged us all to recognize and address disparities in health care, in the workplace, and in education.

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