On Thursday January 15th, Center Board members, Paul Ropp, Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, and Martha Yager, participated in a panel discussion on two topics: Dr. King’s Legacy and Current Struggles with Inequality in America, and The Perception of Race in the Media. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast event was organized by members of the Diversity Council at Advocates, Inc. in Framingham. This non-profit organization champions people who face developmental, mental health, or other life challenges.
The program also included excerpts from the video, Eyes on the Prize, three short talks, and concluded with the audience reading excerpts of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Other speakers included Ms. Tina Gaffney, a Worcester-based actor, director and producer of the radio show, African American Voices and Mr. Rod Flakes. Ms Gaffney spoke of the need to be persistent, to maintain faith in the possibility of compassionate and creative solutions to problems of injustice and inequality. Mr. Rod Flakes, a retired engineer and community activist from Auburn recalled his growing up in Birmingham, Alabama during the bus boycott and church bombing that killed four African-American girls. Mr. Flakes said during the campaign for civil rights, bombings in Birmingham were so frequent the city came to be known as “Bombingham.” He emphasized the necessity of remaining positive in the face of setbacks and discouragement.
Our own Paul Ropp spoke of Dr. King’s inspiring example of loving one’s enemies and demonstrating the power of love, and the art of provoking strategic conflict without hatred, as effective political tools for addressing injustice. Quoting from Dr. King’s speech at Riverside Church, Paul said:
This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force – has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I’m not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life.
The Center is grateful for the new positive connections gained at the breakfast and for an occasion to meet with those working to build a culture of peace in nearby Framingham.