Remembering MLK

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“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: Ricky and Sabrina Sweeny, members of the Belen Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Commission, help their daughter, Ella, 3, with her candle at the 21st annual candlelight vigil on Monday evening.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and message of freedom, peace and equality were celebrated and honored at two different events, one at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus and another in the city of Belen.

Mayor Rudy Jaramillo welcomed the crowd who gathered at the Heart of Belen pavilion Monday, saying it was nice to see the community coming together for Belen’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Commission’s annual event.

“It’s always good to come and reflect on things from the past,” Jaramillo said. “We’re here to celebrate a gentleman, Dr. King, who had a vision, a dream. Let us not forget his vision and dream of having people come together and just get along.”

Jaramillo said we see a lot of things happening in our country and around the world, but that we need to stay focused on what’s happening locally and to come together for the same vision.

Schuyler Michael, a member of the commission, told the crowd they were there to celebrate a great man who gave his life for his fellow Americans.

“At 39 years, he was shot down because he believed that this country can live together in peace and harmony,” Michael said. “The one thing I ask everyone tonight is to invest in ourselves, in our children and in our community so we can see that dream come true.

“Let’s show that love in this community,” he added. “I’ve been here for 34 years and I know it’s here, we just have to put some soil around it and put some water on it and let it grow.”

Terese Ulivarri, chairwoman of the Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Commission, presented to longtime commission members, Serena Douglas and Mary Anderson, with awards of appreciation.

Ulivarri said Douglas, who has served for 21 years and who was a past chairwoman of the commission, has worked tirelessly for the mission of the commitment. Douglas, who is moving to Colorado, said she will miss the community and wishes everyone the best.

She also commended Anderson for her years of working behind the scenes, and her commitment to the commission’s mission.

The commission also presented awards to area youth who participated in the annual essay and poster contests. The winners of the essay contest were Mariah Sanchez, first place; Tiffany Romero, second place; and Brynn Lucero, third place. Winners of the poster contest were Daryna Mosentesva, first place; Marisol L. Cordova, second place; and Josiah Ward, third place.

Joyous singing and dancing accompanied the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration Saturday at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus.

The event was started 25 years ago by Masonic Grand Master of New Mexico, Schuyler Michael, with Rita Logan from the UNM-VC Community Services program.

It was a humble beginning held in a lecture hall with about 25 or 30 people, said Michael, but it grew, and then the auditorium was built and the event was held there.

UNM-VC’s Student Community Center was filled with more than 100 people celebrating King’ legacy, renewing their commitment to his vision and principles.

Belen Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Larry Terrell opened the festivities with a prayer, followed by performances by the Belen Missionary Baptist Church choir and dancers and the Living Water Pentecostal Church praise dancers.

Using the story of the Israelite slaves in ancient Egypt, Larry Brown, from Rio Abajo Masonic Lodge P.H.A. of Belen, shared a speech about persevering by Dr. King who said, “It is difficult to get out of Egypt.”

“Dr. King knew that he could not go through what he had to go through alone,” Brown said. “One day, while sitting at his kitchen table, it seemed to him … came the presence of the Divine. He thought he had heard, ‘Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for truth, and God will be on your side.’

“After that experience, Dr. King knew he was ready to face anything — even hate. Even death,” Brown said. “Dr. King said to all of us, ‘This virus of hate that has seeped into the veins of our nation, if unchecked, will lead inevitably to our moral and spiritual undoing … hold on to that which is noble, good and upright, and ever continue to hold on. Believe, trust and have faith in the great architect of the universe, because history has thrust something upon us and we cannot turn away. Always remember those who made it possible and didn’t give up.’”

Keynote speaker Dr. Alice V. Letteney, UNM-Valencia executive director, spoke of the similarities between the 1960s and the country today.

“We were coming of age through the ’60s, and a lot was going on; Vietnam, anti-war demonstrations, civil rights marches, assassinations,” said Letteney. “We lived through it all, and yet, with all of the tumult, the anger and the upset, we grew up in an America that clearly was looking at its society ― we were striving for social justice … we fought for women’s rights, civil rights, world peace … It was a time when you stood up for what you believed in.”

She said that today in the news, there is talk of income inequality, poverty, unemployment, and the war on poverty, but over the past 20 or more years, political officials seem to have forgotten the war on poverty.

“Look at what’s happening now. The National Security Agency is monitoring our phone calls. We’re talking about what happened in Benghazi, we’re talking about the bridge controversy in New Jersey,” Letteney said. “Am I wrong that we feel maybe, unlike what we felt in the ’60s, that we don’t have as much power? I think we have lost that sense that we are part of a greater community.”

Martin Luther King’s message is as vital today as it was in the 1960s. In 1967, during a time when there was much controversy about King by people who felt he wasn’t pushing enough and change wasn’t happening fast enough, he made a trip to Jamaica and stayed in a little house to write “Where Do We Go From Here, Chaos or Community?”

“He proposed a visionary program for the country, which I think is as relevant today as it was 46 years ago,” Letteney said. “We have this message coming across from almost five decades later ― he wanted us to have spiritual as well as material goals … he wanted us to have debate and discussion about what we value for ourselves and our fellow citizens and the citizens of the world. I think he would have wanted us to believe that we have some empowerment, that we can do something and not just live a solitary, self-serving existence.”