Pura says war on poverty best way to honor MLK
Margery Heins leads an 18-member adult choir during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Greenfield Community College. (Recorder/Chris Shores)
During a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Greenfield Community College, students drew images based on the "I Have a Dream" speech. The images will be assembled together as a quilt that will hang in the college. (Recorder/Chris Shores)
Greenfield Community College president Robert Pura.
GREENFIELD — Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura challenged Franklin County residents on Monday to continue fighting the “war on poverty” that Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders began 50 years ago.
At an event celebrating the life and legacy of King — a leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement until his assassination in 1968 — Pura said that Americans lost their way and left the battle against poverty unfinished.
“Poverty is the most violent force on our planet today,” said Pura. “Poverty causes more death, more destruction, than any of the wars we’ve been involved in.
“We might not be able to do anything about the level of poverty in the world or the level of poverty in the United States,” he said, “but we can step up and do something about poverty in our community. There’s no reason for people to go without food ... (or) have to live in places that are temporary shelters.”
GCC officials also stressed that Monday’s federal holiday should be thought of as a day of service.
“A lot of people think of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a day off. We’re trying to get people to think of it as a ‘day on,’” said Judy Raper, the college’s director of student development.
About 100 community members attended the GCC event Monday, which has been an annual occurrence in the community since the early 1990s. Raper said that providing free activities for local families was an appropriate way to honor King’s legacy.
After Pura’s speech, a choir of 18 adults sang three songs, including the South African hymn “Siyahamba.”
Margery Heins — a Shelburne Falls resident and GCC professor, who directed the choir — said that she chose “Siyahamba” in memory of former South African president and peacemaker Nelson Mandela, who died last month.
The singers consisted of GCC students, parishioners of the First Congregational Church of Ashfield and members of Heins’ community chorus.
Children spent two hours on Monday morning taking part in activities including climbing a rock wall, taking part in a drumming circle and learning dance techniques.
About 20 children drew images, inspired by King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, on square pieces of white cotton fabric — which will eventually be assembled as a quilt and hung in the college’s office of student life.
Some images were depictions of King, while others displayed some other dreams the children had. One said, “I have a dream that chickens won’t be eaten,” and showed an image of a grinning fowl.
You can reach Chris Shores at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 264