Martin Luther King, Jr. historian to speak for Jaffrey event; more planned around region

  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks out against the Vietnam War in 1967. File photo

  • Dr. Walter Earl Fluker is scheduled to speak virtually at the Jaffrey Martin Luther King Day observances on Jan. 18. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/13/2021 5:54:54 PM

After a year where more people than ever before marched for civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of building a “world house” is closer than it has ever been.

This year, Jaffrey’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Day is moving online in a virtual ceremony, featuring as its keynote speaker Dr. Walter Fluker, a Martin Luther King Jr. Professor Emeritus of Ethical Leadership, Boston University School of Theology. Fluker is scheduled to speak on King’s “world house” concept, which suggested that all people are interconnected.

“It’s more timely than ever before,” Fluker said in a recent interview with the Ledger-Transcript. “How do we connect as neighbors, through the many jagged edges of difference, as they relate to race, religion and class, and over our incredible competition for resources? King was asking a very difficult question.”

Fluker said while events like the Jan. 6 invasion of the United States capitol buildings were disheartening for him, there have been many moments in the past year which have given him hope.

“The Black Lives Matter movement is one of those small glimpses of hope. I’m not romanticizing the movement, but it opens some apertures of hope,” Fluker said.

The Black Lives Matter movement has been sparked in part due to the death of Black people at the hands of police. Fluker said part of the reason the movement has so resonated with people is because it is indicative of the larger problem – because there can’t be such a disproportionate amount of state sanctioned violence unless the current atmosphere and politics allow it.

“Black Lives Matter is part of the diagnosis. They’ve decided not to look at the problem as spectators, to see it as merely data, but decide, ‘I am a human agent. I can choose at any moment to say, ‘Yes,’ or ‘No,’” Fluker said. “I can say ‘Yes, this is how it is,’ and resign myself to a kind of fatalism that King would say is death to the human spirit. Or, I can say no, and create a new destiny. That’s the reason for the hope.”

Black Lives Matter marches were held in most major cities across the nation, and it is estimated that cumulatively, more people participated in the protests than in any other movement in the country’s history. And the movement went global, with protests in countries across multiple continents. Fluker said that is the essence of King’s world house philosophy.

“We’ve got the momentum, and we kind of understand this hideous problem of racial inequality better. This is the starting gun, but I think there has to be more,” Fluker said, about where to go from here.

He said while the conversation has begun, the next step is education. He said the problem is not only one of race, but often coincides with class. He said the COVID-19 pandemic has only served to further exemplify this, with Black and and Hispanic communities among the most impacted.

To help ease that poverty gap, Fluker said, there needs to be better access to education and employment, job training and health care. Specifically, he said, there has to be avenues for the next generation to be raised as what he called “ethical leaders” – creating youth who are “spiritually disciplined, intellectually astute, and morally, physically and psychologically whole,” to become the leaders of tomorrow.

“I’m working not just for me or my children,” Fluker said. “Though that’s important. But I’m working for my grandchildren, and their children. I worry a lot about my grandchildren and where they will be in 2040 or 2050. I think we still have a huge job, and the job King points us to, over and over, is to create that sense of community.”

The virtual event is scheduled to be held Monday, Jan. 18, from 5-6 p.m.  The event is presented by the Jaffrey-Rindge MLK Committee and the Keene State College Cheshire Academy for Lifelong Learning. To ensure a space and receive the zoom link, go to MLK Celebration Jaffrey-Rindge on Facebook or to keene.edu/call to register. Space permitting, admission is allowed at any time. Advance questions may be submitted by FB messenger or via jaffreyrindgemlk@gmail.com

 

Other MLK events around the region

In Peterborough, the recently formed Riverstone Studio will host an open house and racial justice exhibit at the 374 Union Street mill building. Jess and Ian Nelson launched the studio in 2020 with plans to use it as both a yoga studio and a community space; the pandemic delayed the latter half of those plans for a bit, but now, they’re starting to realize it.

The space will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday for those who want to stop by and take in recorded Martin Luther King, Jr. speeches, observe photos from this summer’s racial justice protests by Ledger-Transcript editor and photographer Ben Conant, take in Hancock musician Steve Schuch’s “America the Dream,” and gather information about local social justice initiatives, so people can walk away with a plan to take direct action on social justice issues. 

“I think so many people don’t know what to do, but want to do something,” Jess Nelson said. 

Hancock's 3rd Annual Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sponsored by the Hancock Community Conversations on Race,  will be held virtually this year on Monday, Jan. 18.

Organizers decided to move the event to YouTube out of concern for the community's safety during the coronavirus pandemic and the chance for inclement weather.

In lieu of the in-person festivities held the last two years, a 50-minute program has been put together for this year's celebration, featuring local speakers discussing the legacy of Dr. King in their lives and the ongoing work that is being done.

Speakers include Mary Hubbard, Jonah Wheeler, Claire Holston, student poets from Avenue A, and more. Mezzo soprano Jazimina MacNeil will sing a solo version of “America the Dream” while the video will conclude with the full orchestral music video of the song (which is viewable at AmericaTheDream.org).

The link to the video will be available on Monday, Jan. 18 through the Hancock Library Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/hancocknhlibrary.

The Hancock Community Conversations on Race group meets on the second and fourth Mondays of every month. For more information, email hancockccor@gmail.com.

 

Editors Ben Conant and Tim Goodwin contributed to  this report.


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