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GCC celebrates King Day

Greenfield residents Chelsea Farnham (left), 14, and Jordan Bartley, 15, make friendship bracelets while a documentary about Martin Luther King, Jr. is shown Monday at Greenfield Community College. (Recorder/Chris Shores)

Greenfield residents Chelsea Farnham (left), 14, and Jordan Bartley, 15, make friendship bracelets while a documentary about Martin Luther King, Jr. is shown Monday at Greenfield Community College. (Recorder/Chris Shores)

GREENFIELD — For some of the 150 attendees at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, the convergence of Monday’s events — the holiday honoring the civil rights activist and the inauguration of President Barack Obama — allowed an opportunity to reflect on the country’s past, present and future battles for equality.

“On this day, we need to stand proud that we live in a country where we can all be different and that can be celebrated and appreciated,” said La Wanza Lett-Brewington, a 48-year-old Turners Falls resident. “We don’t have to be watered down. We aren’t all the same, but that’s what makes us so great.”

In 1990, said Lett-Brewington, there were no events in Franklin County honoring King — a Civil Rights leader until his assassination in 1968.

Lett-Brewington, and her husband Dwayne Brewington, organized a local event in Greenfield to fill the void and to introduce more family-friendly programs — activities that would allow people of all ages to participate in the holiday, she said.

Twenty-three years later, the tradition has stuck. Monday’s festivities at Greenfield Community College blended playful activities, service projects and viewing of a large projector screen that showed a King documentary one hour and Obama’s inauguration the next.

At noon, as Obama gave his inaugural address, about 130 people watched from seats in the college’s dining commons. Although mostly pensive throughout the speech, the onlookers did break into applause when the president said the country’s “journey is not complete” until discrimination against women, homosexuals and immigrants ends.

That sentiment was echoed in a speech by GCC President Robert Pura, who said that too many people in the community are “locked in a cycle of poverty.”

“Our work in this community is not done,” said Pura. “But we can see now, because of the achievements of leaders like MLK and Barack Obama, we can make a difference.”

Earlier in the morning, children and adults gathered around a table, drawing on pieces of paper what the holiday meant to them.

Some drew images of King, while others wrote singular words like “Peace.” Rosemarie Freeland, coordinator of the college’s women’s resource center, read aloud from a book about King’s life while people worked.

Under the supervision of Greenfield residents Lindy Whiton, 59, and her goddaughter Emma Worth, 12, the individual drawings were then glued to a large roll of blue paper to create a “quilt” — which the pair hung at the dining commons entrance.

Worth, who has been participating in the annual King celebrations since she was a toddler, wrote on her paper square about the convergent values of equality, love and peace.

“I like that it’s a day (when) you can really think about someone who literally changed the world,” she said.

In another room, people made cards for recipients of the elder service Meals on Wheels program.

And at VetNet, the college’s veterans center, cards were made for veterans at the Holyoke Soldier’s Home. VetNet president J.D. McCaughey said that a group of veterans and supporters traveled down to the home Monday afternoon to visit with residents for a few hours.

Also on Monday, GCC staff led a college readiness workshop for students from the Swift River School in Wendell.

And there were other activities for children and families — like board games, face painting, friendship bracelet making and rock climbing. The college served free pizza lunch for all attendees.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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