January 21, 2019
SPRINGFIELD — Those who gathered for the 7th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration at the MassMutual Center on Monday were treated to a program that ranged from speakers sharing the inspirational messages of the late civil rights leader to an array of musical performances by area children.
Gov. Charlie Baker, among the speakers sharing their thoughts on the celebration of the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, stressed that King “was a fighter, he was not a hater.”
"His faith in God, his faith in his fellow human beings, and in the righteousness of his cause gave him strength, inspired his oratory, and gave him hope," Baker said. "And it was that hope, that sense of possibility, that made his words so special."
The holiday program, titled “In the Words of Dr. King,” was presented by Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services, Community Music School of Springfield, DREAM Studios Inc. and Springfield College.
The free public event featured local gospel choirs, music, dance and oratorical performances.
Baker, who was returning to the event after also attending last year, said King’s whole life “was a leap of faith, propelled by his conviction and his hope and aspiration for his country and for others.”
"And that's why so many people from all walks of life answered his call for action," Baker said.
The lessons and teachings all come down to loving your neighbor, honoring your commitments, being the light in the darkness, working on your flaws and persevering, Baker said.
King wanted people to see beyond their religions, ethnicity and color, the governor said. And King also spoke of how darkness cannot drive out darkness, and hate cannot drive out hate.
“Only light can drive out darkness,” Baker said. “Only love can drive out hate.”
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno praised “the beautiful mosaic” that gathered.
Sarno, in making note of the extreme cold weather outside, asked people to remember the many years of cold and dark times that King and others faced in order to move people of all creeds, colors and backgrounds to a positive movement in life.
“Dr. King was all for empowerment — social empowerment, educational empowerment, economic development empowerment,” Sarno said.
While King would be happy with gains made in the United States, he would be troubled by the divisiveness going on today, Sarno said. There is much good going on in Springfield, “and you represent that,” he told the attendees.
“Today in Springfield, we come together as one, a beautiful mosaic of all colors and creeds and backgrounds,” the mayor said.
State Rep. Bud Williams, D-Springfield, joined others in saying there is much more work to be done in areas of racial equality and civil rights.
"We all have to work to get it done," Williams said.
Tara Woods, of Springfield, was among the hundreds of attendees. She said it was a great opportunity for people in the community to get together “and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to come together in one fellowship and enjoy our children and the community.”
Her daughter, a fifth grader, was among the singers from the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence.
“I love seeing her perform, but it’s also it’s also knowing why she’s performing .. and know that she goes to a school that values Dr. Martin Luther King,” Woods said.
Kason Sparks, of Springfield, also among the attendees, praised the remembrance of King and the celebration’s music.
“People worked really hard on it, and I believe it was quite wonderful,” Sparks said. “We celebrated what a great man was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And it’s important for everyone to know what he accomplished was sacrifice.”