When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, the event marked the passing of a civil rights icon whose legacy has only increased over the ensuing decades.
On Monday, Jan. 15, Dr. King’s birthday, the Jaffrey Civic Center will be observing the national holiday with a special presentation. The symposium, marking the 50th anniversary of his death, is entitled “What Is the Dream Today?” and will feature acclaimed commentator on the arts and social integration, David C. Howse of Emerson College and ArtsEmerson, giving the keynote speech. The event brings people together to remember the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to renew the values he stood for. This event is free and open to the public.
“This is the third year that we’ve been hosting this event," said Regina G. Vorce, executive director of the Jaffrey Civic Center. “It originally started out as a community effort, but we decided to pitch in and use our resources to help out. We host a number of artistic and literary community events throughout the year, so this seemed to be a really good fit.”
The event starts off at 4:45 p.m. with the ringing of the United Church's Paul Revere bell as part of the “Let Freedom Ring: Choose Non-Violence” National Bell-Ringing Ceremony. This tradition began when the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday was enacted. The King Federal Holiday Commission was also created at this time, with Coretta Scott King as its first chair. Mrs. King proposed that the holiday celebration commence each year with the ringing of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia as a symbol of freedom and justice. Jaffrey joined in with this observance, and opens its observances with the ringing of the bell.
The mission of the Jaffrey Civic Center is to provide a community center for artistic, educational and civic endeavors. The building and grounds of the Civic Center offer a wide variety of programs, activities, and events throughout the year.
“I think the main reason we have this event is to honor the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and to renew the values he stood for," Vorce said. “We really want to make sure that his dream of racial equality lives on, even in a small town like Jaffrey. We do this by involving the church, schools and the community as a whole. We feel very strongly that this is an important venture."
Vorce said that the bell ringing will be followed by the keynote address by David C. Howse and a candlelight ceremony.
“After that, we pass out awards to our area students," she explained. “The winners of the Middle School Poster Contest will be announced, as well as the winners of the Martin Luther King, Jr. High School Essay Contest. The school choirs will also be on-hand to provide music for the event.”
After the main ceremony, attendees will then repair to the Jaffrey Civic Center for a reception.
“It’s really just a few steps from there to our facility,” Vorce said. “Really, we’re only about a block away. It’s a lovely event and it’s really well-attended.”
Vorce stressed that the event is a real opportunity for the entire community to get involved.
“This is an event for the entire town," she said. “The church, civic center and volunteers all got together to make this a reality. So, I think this really reflects positively on Jaffrey as a whole."
“What is the Dream Today?” will be presented Monday, Jan. 15, from 5 to 6 p.m., at the United Church of Jaffrey, 54 Main St., followed by a reception at the Civic Center, 40 Main St. The event is free and open to the public. For more information or in case of questionable weather, visit jaffreyciviccenter.com or the Jaffrey Civic Center Facebook page at facebook.com/JaffreyCivicCenter.
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