Area events honor MLK legacy

Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 5:29 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Martin Luther King Day celebrations took place all over our region Monday, including at the ECHO Leahy Center in Burlington, where families gathered to honor King’s legacy and also dream big for the future.

Children Monday put their dreams on a mural in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. The youngsters say it’s important for everyone to build on his legacy.

“Because you can always stand up for someone or for yourself without using violence,” said Keke Bennett-Jones.

“It’s just respect for everybody else and for yourself,” added Lucy Poso.

The program included activities for all ages as well as a panel with community leaders designed to discuss moving Rev. King’s message forward.

“We’ve made small steps but still a long way to go. So, it’s important to keep the message alive, to keep the message in our thoughts and in our forefront and move forward with the struggle because we are one with the struggle,” said Patrick Brown, a community leader.

One of the panelists was new Burlington Racial Equity Inclusion and Belonging Director Kim Carson. She says it’s great seeing so many families taking part in celebrating this day and that remembering the history of civil rights in America is imperative to moving forward in a positive way. “It’s really taking a look at moving past just the thoughts and reflecting to actually taking action, to bringing your children out, to immersing yourself in the things that we need to do work on and it tells me the community still wants to do the work, they still have the appetite for the work and that’s why I’m here,” Carson said.

Others on the panel make it a point to attend MLK celebrations each year whenever possible.”We really need to learn about our history when it comes to civil rights. And more importantly, we need to understand what’s going on today within our communities and how can we dismantle the structural racism that is evident even though some people don’t really see it,” said Rob Michalak of Williston

The interactive day also included poetry and music for children and adults alike. Many people from around Chittenden County were at the Echo Center, including Keionna Freeman, a traveling nurse who says she’s seen a positive change even in the time she’s been in Vermont. “More and more I see Vermont is opening up and being more culturally diverse and that is very important to me as a member in the community and also important for my kids to know that we are also counted, we are important as well,” she said.


After being virtual for the last few years, the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. at SUNY Plattsburgh resumed at the Newman Center with song and celebration.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed,” said Plattsburgh’s Janice Tobin, reciting King’s 1963 speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. It’s a reminder of what the day is about.

“Congress designated the Martin Luther King federal holiday as a national day of service with the motto, “It’s a day on, not a day off,” said Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Michael Cashman.

Local and state leaders were also on hand challenging those in attendance to follow Dr. King’s message of unity and being kind. “We see the dishonesty out there. We see the hatred of having different opinions. That’s not in the spirit of Dr. King. It’s not in the spirit of our community,” said Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaguay Lake.

“I invite you, I beg - find that opportunity to be of service, whether it’s recognized or not or whether people see it or not -- because it goes the distance,” said Plattsburgh Mayor Chris Rosenquest.

Allison Heard, SUNY Plattsburgh’s vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion delivered the keynote address. “Let’s take advantage of this opportunity and not let Dr. King’s dream go to waste,” she said. “We often become so intrigued with Dr. King’s dream that we fail to do anything about it but read, regurgitate, and repeat. Celebrations like this read the speech, regurgitate, repeat, but we don’t do anything afterward.”

A celebration in song and in dreams and a challenge to do better.