The keynote speaker, Carlotta Walls LaNier, gave an incredible speech and hopefully our younger generation will have a better idea of what LaNier went thought as one of the nine black students who intergrated at Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas.
Thanks to those who organize this event as they did this city proud. A special thanks to PJ Leopold who really hit the nail on the head with her words and linking the struggles of the 50s with the struggles of today in Danbury.
Here's a few photos from last night. Video footage of the event will be posted shortly and I'll bump this post to the top once everything is uploaded. If you were in attendance last night and wish to comment, please do so in the comments section.
UPDATE: Here's the text to PJ Leopold's remarks that received a huge applause from the audience.
Martin Luther King, his inspiration is why I entered ministry 23 years ago, so I’m very thankful to the Event Planners for giving this Celebration for all to build on his work. While the Civil Rights Movement has unique roots & struggles that aren’t over, we’ll now look at how Civil Rights of 4 decades ago is the Grandparent of today’s struggle for Immigrant Rights. I’ve 3 connections to offer, and I promise to be quick:
First: they’re not just over Rights, but are over National Values getting sorted by local communities. In the Civil Rights Movement: Water Fountains and Restaurant Counters started as local issues. In Montgomery, Alabama, what went on to change the entire American transportation system, started – with a local person: when Rosa Parks sat down, a nation of New Values was lifted up.
African American men used to be called “boy:” branded inferior, because of skin pigment. For many families, issues of race now couple with language or accent. If Martin were here tonight, I believe he’d see abilities of Hispanic, Latino, & Brazilian children to speak 2 or 3 languages as marks of early-childhood intelligence, not their inferiority & perhaps he’d mention many nations teach a 2nd language from the first day of school because they don’t de-value it; and instead, see an asset to build on.
Water Fountains & Buses, or NEW struggles over: language, visas, law enforcement. All come back to Local Communities, getting rid of the clothes in the closet that no longer fit.
The use of fear & hate. These were huge challenges to the Civil Rights Movement. Rev. King. Andrew Young. Rosa Parks. Barry Goldwater. Archie Bunkers. Names have changed. But reducing many, many complicated issues to the “I-Word” (Immigrant automatically equals Illegal) is spreading fear and hate, to dangerous levels.
The early Civil Rights Movement succeeded because it didn’t succumb to fear & hate. In 1957 at Dexter Ave Baptist church, while the nation was rocked by KKK, police dogs, hate rallies, -- this is what Martin said:
Let us fight passionately & unrelentingly for the goals of justice and peace, but let us never fight with falsehood and violence and hate and malice, but always fight with love, so when the day comes that the walls of segregation have completely crumbled - we will be able to live with people as brothers and sisters.
When Martin’s message is in your heart, your Values rise above using fear and hate and you discourage its use by anyone in the community.
To briefly pause there: inside your program, there’s a Card -- to join the Rapid Response Network. It’s a confidential list maintained at the Association of Religious Communities. It’s not given to any other agency & not used for fundraisers. It’s only used to contact you, if there’s a need to help a victim of hate. Signed cards will be received at the Exit, by The Ushers (thank you Ushers).
A third and final link: …….
The Promised Land.
The Civil Rights Movement produced New National Values by asking good questions. The greatest of all was 1 word: Why? Why do water fountains need to be segregated? Why not integrate?
Martin was a Preacher. Not an Engineer. I doubt he knew how to “build water fountains.” What he knew, was how to ask questions – to change the Fountains of Compassion & Fountains of Achievement – for all people. And then, new waters began to flow.
Recently, several thousand residents were polled: asked to “press 1 or press 2” on a Law Enforcement Proposal (commonly called) ICE ACCESS.
Advocates say the program won’t involve “racial profiling.” Yet, the policy would permit police to conduct searches and arrests without warrants; so sometimes police wouldn’t have any choice but to do their job based on what they “see”: physical attributes, such as race.
Imagine the 1950’s:
Let’s say a survey was mailed with the option to “check 1 I’m for segregation, check 2 I’m against” – AT THAT TIME, how would that’ve worked out? (PAUSE) And where would Civil Rights be today?
On Feb 4, 1968 in Atlanta, at Ebenezer Baptist, in response to being called a GREAT American, Martin said this: Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. He said: You don’t have to have a college degree. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree. You don’t have to know Plato and Aristotle. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve.
Martin’s message was prophetic, effective, needed. And still is. When the ICE ACCESS proposal risks Deporting hard earned Values against profiling; it’s not enough to “press 1 or press 2.”
We all owe it to Rev. King, to start a NEW page in history where people of very different outlooks can come to the same table with one, common Goal: what to do (or not do) to bring the community to -- a higher level of Greatness.
So to conclude:
Tonight, I invite everyone to personally recommit to the message of Rev. King & The Anthem -- “Lift Every Voice & Sing:”
- Sing for Healing and Unity,
- Until we are ALL Hate-free,
- And Free, Free at last -- to live, work, worship, and study – in harmony.
None of us are pure, perfect or above the touch of hypocrisy:
- But working together, we can get rid of clothes in the closet that don’t fit (pause) and once again set our eyes on Promised Land.
Thank you Event Planners and Thank you All, for a Great Night.