Sharing the message of nonviolence

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Pum, pum, puh-rum-pum.

For her 20 years of service as the chairwoman of the Belen Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Commission, Geneva Nixon, left, was presented with a key to the city by Mayor Rudy Jaramillo, right, at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. candlelight vigil on Monday. The day was also proclaimed as Geneva Nixon Day by Belen city councilors in honor of her work.

The steady beating of a drum resonated over the sounds of idling cars standing along Reinken Avenue and the quiet footsteps of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. candlelight procession on Monday night.

The Belen High School NJROTC led drummer Ragon Espinoza and dozens of citizens holding flashlights to Anna Becker Park.

A crowd, listening to King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, huddled in the center of the park under the gazebo waiting for the 20th annual Belen Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Commission’s vigil to begin.

Hundreds of community members gathered, bundled in coats and hats and sipping on hot chocolate in the chilly winter weather, to support and commemorate the civil rights leader’s ideals, as well as pledge themselves to another year of nonviolence.

“To see some people that were here at the first candlelight vigil that are still here is incredible,” said Serena Douglas, the commission’s acting chairwoman.

King’s mission of combating racial inequality through nonviolent activities in the African-American Civil Rights Movement is supported by the candlelight vigil, said Belen Mayor Rudy Jaramillo to the crowd.

“May his vision carry on and that we may carry the same vision that Dr. King had,” Jaramillo said.

During the vigil, commission members thanked police and firefighters for their “great and valuable accomplishments in the community,” said Maggie McDonald.

Monday also marked the 20th anniversary of the Belen Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Commission, the organization who organizes the candlelight vigil.

Past members who have served on the commission in the 20 years of its existence were honored for their input in the organization and the organization’s events.

“If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be standing here tonight having our 20th anniversary,” said Douglas.

Former Belen Mayor Richard Aragon and former chairwoman of the commission, Geneva Nixon, were also honored for establishing the commission and getting it off the ground.

Jaramillo presented Nixon with a key to the city and a proclamation naming Jan. 21 as “Geneva Nixon Day” by the Belen city council.

Aragon appointed 14 members to the commission in December 1992, including Nixon, who served as chairwoman for 20 years, after receiving a letter from the chairman of the state commission asking New Mexico communities “to demonstrate their commitment to the values represented by Dr. King by honoring him through the year and especially on his birthday,” Douglas said.

The motto of the Belen commission became “Living the dream; Let freedom ring; Building bridges for unity and understanding.”

“We should all find good in the world and where we find good we should celebrate it,” said Nixon. “That’s what you guys have been doing for all of these years.”

The crowd held flickering white candles in bare hands or mittens as they held a moment of silence for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the Griego murders in the South Valley.

In Trevion Williams’ MLK essay, which took first place in the annual essay contest, he thanked King for the foundation he laid down.

“I’m here to say that I’m gonna carry the dream on,” Williams rapped in front of attendees. “Yes, time to put my mind to the test. I’ll always give more, never less. Let’s get on one accord, make the dream come true even more.”

Williams, the son of Angelle and Sterling Williams, is a senior at Belen High School.

Adolfo Ortiz, also a senior at BHS, and son of Ramon and Maria Ortiz, won second place in the essay contest; and Ismael Orozco, a sophomore at BHS and the son of Norma Orozco, won third.

The first-place winners of the poster contest were Mrs. Woodward’s afternoon Wednesday kindergarten class from Gil Sanchez Elementary School; second place went to Lacen Ray Bland from La Merced Elementary School; and the third-place winner was Bailey Goodson from La Merced Elementary School.

All of the posters will be displayed at the Belen Public Library throughout the month.

During the 24th annual commemorative service at the University of New Mexico – Valencia Campus on Saturday, Eloise Gift said she was honored to speak about the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Gift, a businesswoman and educator involve in several civic organic, professional and business organizations, was a candidate for state representative.

Born in Jamaica, she married and traveled with her husband on diplomatic assignments in the Americas and the Caribbean.

“He was a civil rights leader, dreamer, preacher, teacher, father, peacemaker, non-violent fighter for freedom and speaker of timeless truth,” Gift said of King. “I have no doubt that Dr. King would be the first to agree that although we have come a long way, we have not arrived at the promised land of civil rights and non-violence.

“It is fitting we’re here today and that we continue to meet each and every year to commemorate his vision and his inclusive dream that left no one out.”

Gift told the crowd that King reached out with his universal language of love, justice and righteousness, including people of all races, not just in this country, but all over the world, who embraced his dream.

Because of his message, more than 200,000 people joined him around the reflecting pool in Washington, D.C., in 1963.

Gift, who had been studying abroad in Mexico City at the time, told the crowd she had made every effort to make her way to the nation’s capitol to hear King speak.

She told of her journey, which started by convincing the U.S. Embassy to issue her a Visa for her trip to America. She left Mexico with a friend and traveled for days on a Greyhound bus, through Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, the Carolinas and others, finally arriving in Philadelphia.

It was there that she met up with an upperclassman, who shook his head and told her she was lucky to be alive after her travels.

Needless to say, Gift didn’t make her final destination to see King speak; instead, she was forced to go home to Jamaica.

But two years later, in 1965, she was able to meet King when he visited the University of West Indies. Two years after that, when she was living with her husband in Washington, D.C., she remembers exactly what she was doing on April 4, 1967, when she heard the worst about Dr. King — that he had been killed.

“He left us an example of a life of unwavering commitment to make the world a better place,” she said. “He left us a legacy of unprecedented civil rights achievements, that he, in his lifetime, could only dream of.

“He left us a legacy of his writings in books, speeches, sermons, a treasure trove of inspiring and motivational sayings and edifying lessons.”

Gift asked everyone in attendance to commit themselves to continue King’s message and never forget what he stood for. She asked that everyone commit to never allow King’s legacy be taken for granted.

(Editor’s note: News-Bulletin Editor Clara Garcia contributed to this story.)


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.