MANCHESTER, NH – Monday, January 19, 2015, began the celebration of the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a breakfast held at the Alpine Grove Restaurant by Outreach for Black Unity. This year’s celebration was the 31st breakfast, and it was well attended by community members, clergy, police officers, and elected officials including Gov. Maggie Hassan.
Later in the afternoon the Martin Luther King Coalition held its 33rd community celebration at Saint George Greek Orthodox Church in Manchester. High spirits were displayed by Memorial High School Jazz Band. There were more young people in attendance including City Year who shared uplifting comments from the stage and throughout the gathering of more than 200 participants.
Russell and the Honorable Jacquelyn Weatherspoon provided their Masterful skills as the Masters of Ceremonies. The invocation by the Executive Director of NH Council of Churches, Rev. Clare Chapman, kicked off the program. Gov. Hassan provided brief comments about Rev. Dr. King’s life, and read a proclamation.
This year’s celebration included a video clip of Rev. Dr. King, “Montgomery to Memphis,” it was truly moving to hear and see Dr. King speak. The entire audience appeared to be stirred by the brief sighting of Dr. King in action. Five awards were presented to elementary school youth honoring Dr. King and the late State Rep. Lionel Johnson. D.G. Krasner received the Community Service Award for her years of dedication to creating a better world through her work.
The Keynote speaker, Hedrick Smith, shared how he spent 26 years with the New York Times covering the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights struggle. He focused on the importance of Dr. King’s mission to help this country live out the true meaning of justice for all!
The MLK Award was presented to JerriAnne Boggis, Director of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, Chair of the US Commission Civil Rights NH Advisory Committee and champion of raising a tribute to Harriet Wilson (first woman of African descent to publish a novel in the United States). She received the honor by thanking her parents and the community elders for their support of her efforts.
It was a glorious day filled with food, facts, and fun.
And then a few days later the Union Leader reported the recruiting efforts of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Apparently several Manchester residents were targeted to join the group through literature left on their doorsteps along Union Street. They contacted the Manchester Police Department who then contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
In our country there is room for disagreement around our belief system. There is however, no room for violence or injustice based on a person’s skin color.
Brenda Bailey Lett is a community activist and social justice advocate. She earned a Master’s degrees in Community Mental Health/Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of Dubuque. She served as an Analyzing Power co-facilitator – NH Citizens Alliance, is a former President of the Manchester Branch of the NAACP and current Board Chair of NH Black Women Health Project.