At the Martin Luther King Day celebration in Springfield, many of those attending called for unity during a time of political change.
A group of children pounded out a rhythmic welcome on plastic buckets as a large crowd found their seats.
Pastor Darwin Rivera of the Centro Cristiano Nacion de Jesus began his prayer with these words of Martin Luther King, Junior:
If you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
“This beautiful day we all move forward as one city,” said Rivera. “It doesn’t matter if you are white, black, Latino, we [are] all moving in unity and healing for our society.”
Others also called for healing — like Springfield City Councilor and state Representative Bud Williams, who said today’s politics are re-engaging issues that divided the country when King was living.
“The climate in this country is going backwards,” Williams said. “There’s folks who want to divide us and separate us and go back to the good old days and, ‘Let’s make America great again.’ You know, that’s a buzzword. Making it great again simply means let’s go back to ’50s and ’60s” when there were still Jim Crow laws.
Waleska Lugo-DeJesús, the Director of the Healing Racism Institute, said that President-elect Donald Trump had publicly embraced violence.
“It’s our job to hold him accountable and protect our communities,” said Lugo-DeJesús. “We have an increase in race-related incidents and violence that contribute to a climate of fear, hate and hopelessness. Today we want to embrace love. I’m going to ask everyone to stand.
Lugo-DeJesús then asked people in the audience to tell the person sitting next to them their hopes, and then give them a hug
Marguerite Foster Franklin of Springfield said, ‘Peace in this world,” to John Pierce and his daughter Riley of Palmer
“Unity, unity,” said Pierce.
That theme resonated with others. Everett Handford left with a sense of cohesiveness.
“I think after today’s ceremony, [it’s] an opportunity for everybody to come together and unite as one,” said Handford.
In a time when we are so split and divided, Handford said, that opportunity is huge.