Adapted from Mayor Curtatone’s speech at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration.

By Joseph A. Curtatone

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries and letters to the Editor of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff or publishers)

Last year at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event I reminded us all that Dr. King’s mission remains acutely relevant today. Looking back at all that’s occurred in our nation over the past year, I’m not sure that I realized just how much his words are still needed to help inspire and guide the many who continue to fight for social justice today.

But the tragic truth is we now live in a country where it sure looks like a white nationalist sympathizer sits at the helm; a country where neo-Nazis and the KKK can descend upon an American city and take an innocent life, but still aren’t condemned by our Commander in Chief; a country where immigrants and minorities are demonized and plunged into fear and chaos over the uncertainty of what vile, inhumane policy out of Washington they’ll be up against next.

That is why Martin Luther King Day is so important – a day where we gather to remember, honor, and celebrate the legacy of one of the greatest human rights advocates of all time; a man who peacefully fought against injustice and still inspires people around the world to do the same.

We don’t have to look very far to see Dr. King’s legacy. This past year, in response to the seemingly endless parade of cruelty coming out of the White House, we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people show up on city streets and squares or in airports or Town Hall meetings to march and rally in support of women, LGBTQ people, people of color, immigrants, health care, and even science.

Dr. King taught us to never stay silent in the face of oppression, and we’ve seen that legacy in action right here in Somerville. You turned out in droves for our One Somerville Sanctuary City rally, the annual Domestic Violence vigil, and the Our Ville Stands with Your Ville vigil to support Charlottesville. But I want to challenge you, Somerville. And I want you to challenge me.

We must let Dr. King’s legacy guide us to do more. We must turn our words into actions and not just at rallies or on MLK Day, but we must do more each and every day. We must continue to grow our community through inclusivity and combat all forms of injustice. We must continue holding critical conversations with the community around racism, LGBTQ topics, immigration, and other social issues. We must continue to look at ourselves and examine our biases, recognizing that there are centuries of systemic racism to reverse. We must stand up for DACA recipients and TPS holders and remain a Sanctuary City – fighting for ALL immigrants’ rights no matter their status. And we must continue to strive to be One Somerville – a place where all are welcome and valued.

I’ll be honest with you – it’s not going to be easy. We’re facing an uphill battle and have hard days ahead. We have to channel the spirit of MLK Day every day and let Dr. King’s words steer us in the right direction and embolden us to push forward.

In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King said, “So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

Dr. King’s dream represents all of our dreams – the dream that all are welcome here and have a real opportunity to succeed. We must keep coming together, standing together, and fighting oppression together until that dream is a reality.


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