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MLK Remembered At City Hall Celebration


    A weekend of events commemorating the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. 90 years ago is under way in Springfield, Massachusetts.

    A program celebrating the life and legacy of the civil rights pioneer was presented Friday at City Hall by the Springfield chapter of the NAACP and the office of Mayor Domenic Sarno.  It featured song, rousing oratory and an inspirational essay by an 11-year-old girl, who said like Dr. King she too has a dream.

   " My dream is that there will be less young men choosing a life of crime and more young men choosing a major in college," Serenity Figueroa said as the audience cheered.

   She later led about 50 of her fifth grade classmates from the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School in reciting a pledge to make college their destiny.

     After the speaking program, a commemorative flag with King’s portrait superimposed over the Stars and Stripes was raised up the flagpole in front of City Hall.

   Mayor Sarno urged people to adhere year-round to the principles King stood for.

   " And it does not matter what creed, color, or background you are, the ideals work for each and every one of us," said Sarno.

   In a keynote address, Rev. Talbert Swan, the Springfield NAACP chapter president, said “astonishing progress” had been made on civil rights since King’s assassination in 1968, but still the country was more racially divided than ever.

    " Too many still fall victims much too often to the siren-song of racial demagogues," said Swan. " Dr.  King would certainly recognize that."

    Swan contrasted King’s message of hope with the “nativism and bigotry” that was heard in last year’s presidential campaign, and said if King had lived  he would urge people to stand up for their rights.

   " He would tells us to stand, to fight to .pray.  He'd let us know  that we've been here before. Donald Trump ain't nothing new.  We've seen Donald Trumps through out history. We've dealt with disunity and racial division before."

   Also at Friday’s event, Swan was sworn in for a fourth two-year term as president of the Springfield NAACP chapter. 

    "We plan on joining in solidarity with branches across the nation to fight against social ills that are impacting our communities,"  Swan said in an interview Friday. " Of course we will work on local issues as well."

  The annual MLK Scholarship Breakfast will be held Saturday in Springfield.

  On Monday, when King’s birthday is observed as a federal and state holiday, several community organizations are putting on a two-hour celebration at the MassMutual Center that features music and dance performances by hundreds of children.


Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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