The commemoration in Plattsburgh honoring Dr. Martin Luther King is normally held at the SUNY Plattsburgh Newman Center. But this year due to COVID-19 organizers had to find a different way to hold the event, turning to the local public television station to create an hour-long virtual program.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration organizers couldn’t find an available site where the Plattsburgh community could gather that was adequately safe under COVID-19 guidelines. Committee member Maxine Perry says they decided to do a virtual celebration of King’s legacy. “We feel it’s important for the community to witness some of the things that are going on today that sort of relate to what’s gone on in the past. And we hope that it will enlighten the community.”
The virtual celebration was recorded earlier this month by Mountain Lake PBS in Plattsburgh. “Welcome. My name is Holly Heller-Ross. While others were advocating for freedom by any means necessary, including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of non-violent resistance to achieve seemingly impossible goals.”
Rabbi David Kominski compared King to biblical prophets who called society to reckoning. “In contemporary America we tend not to use the word prophet. And yet I think that in naming Martin Luther King Jr. as prophet we do no disservice to those who came before him. Today more than ever we are called to follow in his path that he laid out for use. We are called to make this country a more perfect union. We are called to engage in making this world a more equitable place.”
Plattsburgh Mayor Chris Rosenquest reminds us that King’s legacy is one of service and social justice around issues like workers’ and voting rights and fair and equal housing. “For me it’s not enough to just take a look at what Dr. King did in the very short time that he was here. It’s very much also up to us to continue that fight, to continue that legacy as an inheritance.”
Adirondack Diversity Initiative Director Nicole Hylton-Patterson spoke about King’s belief in the power of redemptive love. “King said: We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that we will make of this old world a new world for love is the only way.”
Speakers urged people to make this a day of service. Plattsburgh’s celebration traditionally begins with a group cleaning the Trinity Church soup kitchen followed by the Newman Center gathering.
Audio is courtesy of Mountain Lake PBS.