In both spirit and service, residents across the Merrimack Valley yesterday marked the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., remembering the slain civil rights leader in song and prayer and by lending a helping hand to those in need.
“His legacy is fundamental to who I am,” said attorney Damon Smith, the deputy general counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as he spoke of King’s influence on both his professional and personal life during an energetic and poignant ceremony at the Andover Baptist Church.
Across the Merrimack River in Haverhill, some 75 volunteers led by Emmaus Inc. prepared “Welcome bags” for homeless individuals entering shelters and also made and served lunch and dinner to people in need.
It was Emmaus’ first ever MLK day of service, designed to capture the spirit of King’s “Poor People’s Campaign,” which called for income equality and redistribution among American workers. Organizers noted King was assassinated before his campaign was completed but his dream and pursuit of equality for all Americans still prevail.
Throughout his lifetime (1929-1968), King worked tireless for civil rights and is probably best known for his “I Have a Dream” speech delivered in Washington, D.C. to a quarter of a million people. At age 35, he became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. On April 4, 1968 he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.
Yesterday morning, at the Andover Baptist Church, more than 100 people came to remember King. The “Unity Choir” started the 11 a.m. service by singing “Jesus Promised He’ll Take Care of Me,” which drew people to their feet, clapping and singing along.
During the ceremony, various members of the congregation stood and recited powerful quotes from civil rights leaders, including Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela. There were also performances by the group “Choral Majority” and liturgical dance on the church altar by Lakyia Burnes and Claudia Hyppolite-Fils.