‘Our call to action’: Dozens gather to celebrate MLK Jr. Day at Greenfield Community College 

  • Author and keynote speaker Kwamane Harris speaks at Greenfield Community College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration Monday morning. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Author and keynote speaker Kwamane Harris speaks at Greenfield Community College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration Monday morning. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Dozens of members of the public attended Greenfield Community College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration Monday morning. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Children from community youth group Twice as Smart perform during Greenfield Community College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration Monday morning. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Children from community youth group Twice as Smart perform during Greenfield Community College's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration Monday morning. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 1/16/2023 5:12:49 PM
Modified: 1/16/2023 5:09:33 PM

GREENFIELD — In recognition that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a day of service, dozens of attendees at Greenfield Community College’s annual celebration on Monday were reminded that every action taken should be with future generations in mind.

Keynote speaker, author and former executive director of The Brick House Community Resource Center Kwamane Harris shared his personal story and reflected on how King’s actions and words have driven him to think about how he and others can work to leave the world better off for future generations. Harris is the author of “Pushing the Generations Forward: Finding Your Purpose Through the Next Generation,” where he explores his own and his ancestors’ experiences and how those can inform the actions people can take to ensure their future children are in good hands.

“(King) stood in the gap for people who look like me and that, to me, is pushing generations forward,” Harris said. “He spoke about a better America, he spoke about what he was doing for the next generation … It’s about understanding that everything you do matters for your children’s children.”

Standing in GCC’s Cohn Family Dining Commons, college President Michelle Schutt gave a brief opening statement, in which she reminded people that while Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday, it is not just like any other day off because it is a national day of service, where everyone can learn from King and “make a community in which everyone is cared for.”

“His example is our call to action,” Schutt said.

Taking action, Harris said, is far from a simple task because “being a pioneer is hard.” He added part of this journey is securing your own seat at the decision-making table and acknowledging the trauma you’ve experienced, but also learning that forgiveness is a part of the process.

“You’ve got to have that grit and resilience in that moment, that no matter what happens, I’m going to make sure my children’s children never have to experience what I had to experience,” Harris said. “That same drive Dr. King used when he gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, has to be the same drive that you have and we all have to make a better America.”

He said it is important to accept that people will “never see the full fruits of their labor,” because not even King was able to see the impact he made decades after his death.

“If you think about the next generation and your children’s children, a lot of the fruits of labor we’re trying to put out, you will never see,” Harris said. “Dr. King never saw them … but he understood that he had to keep working for a dream that he would never see.”

Following Harris’ address, the Twice as Smart youth group performed several songs and shared their dreams for future generations, which included the end of racism; ensuring everyone has access to food, shelter and a good education; and peace. Twice as Smart is a community group rooted in social justice that brings kids together twice a week to provide a positive school environment for kids with the goal of leading them toward higher education.

“This program works to create a community of kindness,” said Twice as Smart board member Deborah Shriver. “I am constantly amazed by what they do and I think you will be, too.”The children’s performance was followed by the MLK Chorus and the event was closed out with a clip from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which GCC Associate Dean for Community Engagement Judy Raper said was a fitting end because they wanted “to give Dr. King the last word.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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