— with A3 intern Alx Bunner, contributing author
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that, hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
A large and diverse group gathered at the Springfield Justice Center on January 20 for Springfield’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Day March and Celebration, organized by the Springfield Alliance for Equality and Respect, or SAfER, committee in association with our district, the city of Springfield, and a number of community sponsors.
Our own Dr. Hertica Martin led this year’s march through the Washburne Historic District to Springfield High alongside Mayor Christine Lundberg and new Chief of Police Tim Doney. Marchers included a mix of students, staff, community members and children, many sporting signs and others chanting.
Marchers were warmly welcomed at Springfield High, where they were treated to refreshments and the sweet sounds from Eric Richardson’s Invisible Art Project while taking in the displays of incredible student art, essays, and poetry that filled the Commons in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy.
“While in the cafeteria I felt an air of celebration; people wandered around looking at the art, eating or drinking the refreshments and having casual conversations with, friends, coworkers and strangers alike,” said Alx Bunner. “By attending this event I realized that through unity, people become strong, because by simply showing up and marching I met many friendly people whom I’d never seen before. But they still welcomed me to the celebration with a smile.”
As attendees circulated, one older student said he came because he didn’t want to see Dr. King’s legacy “swept under the rug” and wanted “a refresher of something good.” Others said they came to celebrate the community’s diversity. All certainly appreciated and admired the effort and enthusiasm behind the student work.
“I’m amazed how much the world has changed over the years. We still have a long way to go but we are slowly getting there,” said Riverbend Elementary School Principal Dave Hulbert. He said he was inspired by how students young and old can absorb the message Martin Luther King taught 50 years ago and apply it to their everyday lives.
SHS Principal José da Silva and Vice Principal Shadiin Garcia greeted the packed auditorium at the start of the program, introducing a Welcome Address delivered by Dr. Martin:
“We must pledge that although our journey may be long, and the road ahead will be anything but easy, we will never stop working to forge a more just society, the type of society in which all people deserve to live.
• We must stand firm in the face of discrimination and hate.
• We must challenge each other to work for peace in a world too often driven by conflict.
• Finally, we must continue to stand up and speak out with one voice, as one people, for the dignity of a promise kept, the honor of a right redeemed, and the values that must continue to drive our ongoing pursuit of a more just and more perfect nation.”[Click here to read the full speech.]
The remainder of the program also included powerful and dynamic student speeches and student awards, interspersed with fantastic student performances by Riverbend’s Rockin’ Amigos, the Hamlin Choir, the SHS Jazz Band and Mariachi del Sol. Amanda Gonzalez-Merrill, an SHS graduate, sang the Black National Anthem.
[Click here to see Justin Hinton’s second-place speech; Alison Hamilton’s first-place speech will be made available after she competes in the Rotary regional contest.]
The finale was the award of SAfER’s Human Rights Award to Shelley Corteville, praised as a “tireless volunteer and advocate” for several organizations, including the Egan Warming Center, SAfER and others. Corteville delivered an impassioned acceptance speech in which she encouraged volunteerism and service for those in need.
[Click here to read the full news release.]
Paul Weill, the district’s diversity coordinator, summed up the event well: “Diversity makes us all better and stronger. This is why we must celebrate it and protect it. When diversity is diminished by acts of discrimination or hatred we must stand up. Otherwise, we are all demeaned and dehumanized. Martin Luther King taught us this through his work, words and life.“
A gallery of the winning student art and posters follows. Artwork may not be reproduced without the written consent of the artist.