MLK Jr.’s words echo in this time

‘Turn back the forces of to­day,’ says DeLauro at trib­ute

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Pam McLough­lin

NEW HAVEN — Even as we feel the arch of civil rights buck­ling to­day to big­otry and ha­tred, it’s more im­por­tant than ever to re­mem­ber that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. kept his re­solve while jailed in Birm­ing­ham, Alabama, for his par­tic­i­pa­tion in a peace­ful demon­stra­tion, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said Sun­day.

DeLauro said she is heart­ened that a year af­ter King was in that jail, he stood in the White House for the sign­ing of the Civil Rights Act.

“We will turn back the forces of to­day and stand to­gether,” DeLauro said. “The goal of Amer­ica is free­dom.”

DeLauro and sev­eral other dig­ni­taries, in­clud­ing U.S. Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal and Lt. Gov. Su­san Bysiewicz, were among

those who spoke to a packed church for the West Haven Black Coali­tion’s 33rd an­nual trib­ute to King. The coali­tion was founded and is led by Car­roll E. Brown.

Be­cause of work be­ing done at the event’s usual lo­cale, West Haven’s First Con­gre­ga­tional Church, the trib­ute was held at the Elm City’s First Church of Christ, also known as Cen­ter Church on the Green.

The trib­ute an­nu­ally draws about 500 and is con­sid­ered the area’s kick­off to a week of cel­e­bra­tion of the slain civil rights leader’s birth­day.

The Rev. Carl Howard, tem­po­rary pas­tor at First Con­gre­ga­tional Church of West Haven and as­so­ciate pas­tor of Dun­bar Con­gre­ga­tional Church in Ham­den, told the au­di­ence that in mod­el­ing King, peo­ple should re­mem­ber his tena­cious, tough side and look be­yond the fa­mous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Howard said King dur­ing his time was “de­spised” and “vil­i­fied” by many, and faced chal­lenges from the black power move­ment and for speak­ing out against the Viet­nam War at the risk of

alien­at­ing Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son. Even Jackie Robin­son and the South­ern Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence turned against King, Howard said.

“If we’re go­ing to be like Dr. King, we have to give our all as well,” Howard said.

King with­stood ad­ver­sity and stayed fo­cused, Howard said.

“Some­times, we have to walk alone,” Howard said. “He saw what needed to be done and he did it. He dared to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo, de­spite con­se­quences.”

Howard told the au­di­ence that in con­tin­u­ing King’s work to­day, “We have to stop be­ing side­tracked by the side show.”

Blu­men­thal said many think of Martin Luther King Day as a day off, but it should re­ally be a “day on” in the strug­gle for crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form, bet­ter hous­ing, bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion. Blu­men­thal said he’ll con­tinue work­ing for that in Washington, D.C.

He drew par­al­lels to to­day, not­ing the cur­rent gov­ern­ment shut­down has 800,000 peo­ple ei­ther out of work or work­ing with­out pay.

He said King died while or­ga­niz­ing a strike of san­i­ta­tion work­ers in need of eco­nomic equal­ity.

Blu­men­thal said that like King, “We should all be hold­ing our gov­ern­ment’s feet to the fire.”

Blu­men­thal in­voked the fa­mous, time­less quote by King: “In­jus­tice any­where is a threat to jus­tice ev­ery­where.”

Bysiewicz said fight­ing for eco­nomic jus­tice and fight­ing poverty were among King’s top agenda items and they are tops on the list for her and newly elected Gov. Ned La­mont.

She said they want the min­i­mum wage raised to $15, paid fam­ily med­i­cal leave and equal pay for women.

She said they are also work­ing hard to see that the state’s staff “re­flects the di­ver­sity of our state.” Bysiewicz said they want to keep peo­ple in the state.

“The civil rights move­ment and the legacy of Dr. King de­pends on all of us,” Bysiewicz said.

Peter Hviz­dak / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Mas­ter of Cer­e­monies Sean Hardy, of the Mauro-Sheri­dan School in New Haven, speaks dur­ing the trib­ute at Cen­ter Church on the Green in New Haven.

Peter Hviz­dak / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

The Rev. Carl Howard, as­so­ciate paster of the First Con­gre­ga­tional Church of West Haven, gives the key­note ad­dress dur­ing Sun­day MLK trib­ute.

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