By Susan Olsen Orpilla, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Inspiration and interactive fun filled the 2nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration held at Westborough High School (WHS) on Jan. 20. “Our Diversity Is Our Strength: Reflect, Connect, Heal” was the theme of this year’s free public event honoring the federal holiday of the great leader of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It was hosted by Central MA Connections in Faith (CMACIF) in collaboration with Westborough Interfaith Clergy Association, Westborough Connects and Westborough Public Schools and funded by the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and by Islamic Relief. Free interpretation services in Spanish and Portuguese were provided by Ascentria Care Alliance.
The three-hour event began with a welcome from Reverend Jeffrey Goodrich of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Maureen Amoyt, Library Director of the Westborough Public Library and president of Westborough Connects, read an excerpt from MLK Jr.’s book “Strength to Love” regarding the desire and need to be loved. Next, ImprompTUNES, an acapella group of Westborough High School (WHS), performed a melodious rendition of U2’s “MLK”. Amjad Bhatti, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester and part of the Core Team of CMACIF, gave the next reading that explained how people from around the world are connected.
Three Westborough students delivered their winning presentations of this year’s Creative Writing Contest. April Zhang, a student from Sarah W. Gibbons Middle School, accompanied herself on piano as she sang a moving song she wrote, “Man on a Mountain”. WHS student Kyla Kamugu presented a stirring speech on what it is like to be black in America, asking when it will be “home of the free… for people like me.” WHS student Shannon Clarke, recited her essay about the connection between fear and prejudice and she asked everyone to do their part to eliminate that fear. All three received standing ovations.
The event’s keynote speaker was Maria Milagros, a local speaker and author. Milagros shared personal stories of her life growing up as woman of color. She urged the audience to own and accept all parts of their life stories and experiences. She further encouraged all to display their true selves, celebrate diversity, and declared that “we are the dream” (that MLK, Jr. hoped for in his infamous speech).
Superintendent of Westborough Public Schools Amber Bock then read an excerpt from “Advice for Living” where MLK Jr. answered the question, “Is love really the solution to the race problem? Are there not times when a man must stand up and fight fire with fire?” His answer began with, Bock said, “I am convinced that love is the most durable power in the world.”
Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz of Congregation B’nai Shalom, gave a word of thanks. Otha Day from Drum to the Beat lead an interactive drumming activity using the human heartbeat which connected all audience members to each other. The ImprompTUNES returned to perform a lively version of “Take Me Home” by Pentatonix.
Following the auditorium presentations, children ages 12 and under took part in interactive storytelling led by Nuray Wallance and a drumming circle led by Otha Day. Adults and those ages 13 and up took part in discussion groups facilitated by CMACIF volunteers. Snacks were provided at this time by Roche Brothers, Panera Bread, and BJ’s Wholesale Club.
Highlights and the event in its entirety can be viewed at WestboroughTV.org.