On Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday, communities across Greater Boston celebrated the birth of the slain civil rights leader, remembering his dream of social, economic, and racial justice for all. With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, most celebrations were held virtually. King’s legacy was remembered in speeches, community service projects, and prayer. A sampling of thoughts and reflections about King and the day follows. Compiled by Globe Correspondents Andrew Brinker, Grace Gilson, Charlie McKenna, Rose Pecci, and Matt Yan.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, speaking at Boston’s 52nd Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, which honored Black women this year:
“I am reminded that the path from resistance to representation isn’t a straight line — it’s a loop, one that’s meant to be tread and retread, drawing strength from the act of defying injustice, racism, and anti-Blackness, rising antisemitism, or anti-Asian hate and building power in the communities we come from. So, today is a day of remembrance and celebration, of gratitude and service. And I’m reminded of the legacy that Dr. King left us, so that we may celebrate his dreams, give thanks for the Black women in our lives and communities who have proven them possible, and a charge for all of us to strive to create a Boston that is worthy of our Black community here.”
Sandy Callahan and her son Michael Merrick, 13, bagged lunches for people experiencing homelessness at the Quincy Democratic City Committee’s MLK Day of Service:
“Everyone gets a day off, but, if you think about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, it shouldn’t be a day off. It should be about serving people in need like he did. We are honoring his legacy through service to our community,” Callahan said.
“The best word to describe his work is groundbreaking,” Merrick said, describing what MLK means to him. “If it weren’t for [King] we wouldn’t have the lives that we have today. Our country wouldn’t be equal. So I’m proud to do something to honor him.”
Niko Emack, an organizer with My Brother’s Keeper Cambridge, which cosponsored a walk through the Port neighborhood to learn about the area’s Black and brown history:
“The goal of our walk is to challenge people to ask, if Martin Luther King was with us today, what would he see? How would he view our city? Hopefully, that question challenges people to really think about their surroundings: their neighbors, their classmates, their kids, friends, and everyone from all walks of life who call Cambridge home. We want to challenge people to think about things through empathy, like MLK did, and to think about them in a different light, and to build stronger community by asking those tough questions.”
Andrea Taylor, Boston University senior diversity officer, speaking during the university’s annual MLK celebration:
“Today, sadly, the nation and the world face many of the same issues that Dr. King confronted in the 1960s. Looking ahead, I’m encouraged and optimistic about the future, as we see young people expressing concerns about belonging, diversity, equity, and justice and using 21st-century tools and skills to address contemporary challenges. Those who tune in to Dr. King’s message may be surprised to learn that his vision remains powerful and relevant today. He spoke eloquently 50 years ago about the two Americas that we live in, an island of poverty amidst a sea of plenty. A global pandemic has put a glaring spotlight on these disparities that undermine our successes. His ideas, for example, about universal income distribution and notions about guaranteed income for underserved Americans are currently part of the policy debates in the nation’s capital. Voting is urgent at this moment, and young people especially should consider running for office and getting involved. Democracy is not a spectator sport. It requires engagement and participation.”
The Rev. Alicia Marie Johnson, assistant pastor at Myrtle Baptist Church in Newton, who delivered a sermon at the city’s 54th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration:
“We speak about Dr. King in terms of love and justice and power. And this is not wrong. We must not speak of this without remembering what he said: ‘Power is the ability to achieve purpose.’ . . . Dr. King reminds us that what is needed now is a realization of power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. It means what we need now is a prick of our own consciousness that causes love and power to act on one accord.”
Donna Murray of Zion Baptist Church in Lynn, describing the need for King’s advocacy to continue, during a celebration sponsored by the city’s Community Minority Cultural Center:
“There is still such a disparity, an economic disparity, a health disparity, and criminal justice issues still. And what’s so sad is, some of the things we had are now being eroded, but I think there are still people who still believe in King’s vision, and hopefully will continue to follow his work.”
Darcy Orellana, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, speaking during the college’s “Living the Dream” celebration:
“Let’s envision what our communities might look, feel, and be like when racism is ended. Imagine, whether through your individual or our combined actions, we end the false belief in the hierarchy of human value based on race, and we create more racially just and equitable communities.”
Andrew Brinker can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewnbrinker. Grace Gilson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Charlie McKenna can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @charliemckenna9. Rose Pecci can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.