King honored at Northampton’s 36th annual event

  • Don Perry, a member of Project Operation Change, talks with Rema Loeb as she signs a petition. The group met as one of the social justice workshops at Edwards Church during the 36th annual MLK Day celebration in Northampton, Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amilcar Shabazz speaks at the 36th annual MLK Day celebration Monday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Congressman Jim McGovern speaks at the 36th annual MLK Day celebration in Northampton, Monday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Dr. Amilcar Shabazz speaks at the 36th annual MLK day celebration in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Myra Lam raises her hands with others in response to being asked if people had been politicized by Frances Crowe, during the 36th annual MLK Day celebration Monday at Edwards Church in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Khalif Neville plays at the 36th annual MLK Day celebration Monday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amilcar Shabazz speaks at the 36th annual MLK Day celebration in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amilcar Shabazz speaks at the 36th annual MLK Day celebration Monday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amilcar Shabazz speaks at the 36th annual MLK Day celebration Monday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amilcar Shabazz speaks at the 36th annual MLK Day celebration Monday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/20/2020 10:31:15 PM

NORTHAMPTON — At a Martin Luther King Day event in Worcester on Monday, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern noticed someone wanted a word with him.

“This guy pulled me aside and said, ‘Please don’t be political today,’” he told a Northampton crowd later Monday at Edwards Church. “I reminded everybody that Dr. Martin Luther King was political,” he continued. “Not necessarily in a partisan way. He organized marches on our state capitals, marches on Washington to pressure politicians — Republicans and Democrats — to be on the right side of history when it came to supporting civil rights. That’s very political.”

The gathering was part of the annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. in Northampton, a series of events organized by the Resistance Center for Peace and Justice that included live music, social justice workshops and a gathering featuring remarks from McGovern and a keynote address from Amilcar Shabazz, a professor of history and Africana studies at the University of Massachusetts.

Speaking to a packed room, Shabazz said civil rights leaders like King, “they show us that freedom is not free. And for some, the price of the ticket is quite high.”

Today, Shabazz said, “It is important to think and act — where would Martin be on these issues?”

He reminded the room that many people died in the civil rights movement. “On this day, we not only recall and honor Dr. King, but we should honor all those who died with him,” he said, drawing applause. “We have to remember all of those beaten and killed and suffered and jailed who struggled, nonviolently struggled. That’s what we do on this day.”

Shabazz also stressed the importance of the upcoming election. “It’s 2020, a presidential election year. Once again, African-Americans are running — for their lives.”

It’s important to rally around the Democratic nominee, Shabazz said. “Whoever comes out, I think we’ve got to unite to work to unseat this current person,” he said referring to President Donald Trump.

Despite the packed room, there was one person missing: the late Frances Crowe, who helped start the original yearly celebrations. “This is the first MLK celebration with Frances gone,” said Jeff Napolitano, a Resistance Center board member.

“Frances was one of the most dedicated activists that fueled the anti-war movement in the Valley,” Miranda Groux, program director at the Resistance Center, told the crowd. She asked people in the room to raise their hands if Crowe had politicized them in any way, like getting them to protest or write to their legislator. Many hands went up across the church. “Look at what impact one person can have,” Groux said.

When McGovern later spoke, he said he had raised his hand in response to Groux’s question. McGovern recalled that at one of his first meetings with Crowe, thinking that he would impress her, he said he been arrested several times. “Congressman, you can do better,” he said Crowe told him, saying she had been arrested about a hundred times.

McGovern thought about how King would stand on issues today. “Dr. King called on all of us to do better,” he said. “I think now he would be asking us do be engaged in the movement that so many young people are ... to deal with the issue of the climate crisis.”

He encouraged people to take action.”Today is not just about looking back. Today is very much about the present and about looking to the future. Martin Luther King Jr. was a troublemaker. He had the guts to speak truth to power, which is not always easy.” The crowd clapped.

“I think today must be about whether we recharge our batteries and we take action to keep Dr. King’s dream alive in our time.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




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