For the 32nd year, the City of New Britain held a celebration to honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Unlike many past years, the celebration Monday was held at Trinity on Main in order to open it to the public.
“Some will say not much has changed and they will keep fighting to further promote the legacy he left behind and keep hope alive,” said Jessica Angelo-Julien, master of ceremonies. “We continue to acknowledge the accomplishments of African Americans.”
Rev. Jacqueline King, Pastor of Spottswood AME Zion Church gave the invocation.
Mayor Erin E. Stewart said each year she draws from a different inspirational quote and this year it is “As we walk, we shall always make the pledge that we will march ahead. We cannot turn back.”
“These words are more true today more than ever,” said Stewart. “We are one of not many communities who have an event like this.”
She said New Britain is fortunate to have so many people ensuring it is a welcoming place for everyone.
“Our community has a solid foundation of teaching and living up to the practice of being kind to our neighbors and more importantly strangers,” Stewart said. “We are a proud City whether we are white, black, Hispanic or Latino. New Britain is a community built on the belief that every person has amazing value and is owed the respect we want for ourselves.”
Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty said the best way to honor Dr King’s legacy is to live it out in what we do.
“It is a cold dark winter of the nation’s soul. I have to go to Washington tomorrow and we are facing enormous challenges,” said Esty. “Dr. Martin Luther King is a reminder that Democracy is not about one person. It is not about the president. It is about us. It is about the opportunity we have each and every day to be a better person.”
Keynote speak Jerrell Hargaves, Community Leader, spoke about growing up poor in New Britain and striving for a better life.
“Me, being here, proves anything is possible,” said Hargraves. “My older brother, my older sister and I lived in a two-bedroom apartment in the Pinnacle Heights Projects. My parents wanted a better life for their children and with hard work and perseverance they were able to achieve that American dream and buy their own home.”
Hargraves said he is grateful for his family, the past and the diversity in New Britain.
He said Dr. King worked in the tobacco fields in Simsbury where he did not face segregation.
“Those summers may have been a contributing factor on why Dr. King led the civil rights movement,” said Hargraves. “Now, there is often something written on social media or TV that wants to divide a nation.”
Hargraves said love and peace was an emphasis for Dr. King.
“You can have a lasting impact on anyone. You can show them that the light is at the end of the tunnel,” said Hargraves. “I ask of you to promise to keep moving forward, help out your fellow man, help the community and never look back.”
Student ambassadors read aloud Martin Luther King Jr. silhouettes.
The New Britain Choir sang the National Anthem and the dancers performed musical selections.
Following the event, a wreath laying took place at the Dr. Martin Luther King Park. Taliah Green, Slade School Ambassador gave “I have a dream” remarks.
The event is sponsored by Mayor Stewart and the New Britain Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.