WESTBOROUGH – For Dr. Todd Jenkins, his iconic bowtie is more than a necktie – it’s a philosophy.
“People were curious about my bowtie,” Jenkins said during Westborough’s fourth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration on Monday. “It doesn’t matter where I go, people just approach me and strike up a conversation.”
The Celebration was held via Zoom and co-hosted by Central MA Connections in Faith, the Westborough Interfaith Association, Westborough Connects and the Westborough Public Schools.
This year, event organizers welcomed Jenkins to facilitate the event. A certified Leadership Management International Facilitator, Jenkins posed his “golden question,” asking viewers how they would build inclusive love within their community.
“Inclusion is an action,” said Jenkins. “It really does start with a conversation but it does not end there.”
Jenkins called on attendees to be proactive, noting that inclusion means inviting growth among community members.
“Inclusion starts with the letter I,” said Jenkins. “It starts with holding up the mirror before you look out the window.”
Event honors contest winners
In addition to Jenkins’ presentation, Monday’s Community Celebration honored two Westborough students who submitted essays in a contest held prior to the event.
Assistant Superintendent of Westborough Public Schools Daniel Mayer announced the winners.
Students were tasked with creating essays and creative projects that were based on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings in conjunction with this year’s theme: “Transforming Fear with Love: Building Community Through Conversation and Connection.”
Students were specifically asked to create something based on Dr. King’s famous quote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
In his essay, seventh grade winner Sunaad Sachin Kumar, said he believes change comes only through kindness.
“If we hate people who are already in fear, their hate will only increase,” said Sunaad. “To build a peaceful and fearless community, we should build it in a kind way.”
The second winner, Reyan Kassam echoed Sunaad’s sentiment and likened darkness to a lack of wisdom within a community.
“Love transforms with its power to drive out the power of hatred,” said Kassam. “We still see this urgency today, and if we don’t act it will drag us to the darkness.”
Organizers note event’s success
The event, originally planned to take place in person, was forced to move to Zoom due to the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
“Transitioning to a completely virtual event was originally disappointing,” said Kate Storm, Chair of the Westborough Connects Board of Directors, in an interview with the Community Advocate on Monday.
She said, however, that organizers were able to pivot and include original plans in the virtual format, albeit with minor adjustments.
Storm said she was pleased with the attendance of the event, which hosted over 180 unique attendees at its peak. She believed the event was a “wonderful example” of community and collaboration.
Despite the sudden change in modality, event organizers still also provided an in-person story walk outside of Westborough High School, based on the book “My Name is Sangoel.”
That display will remain up through February.
“Today was just the beginning of what we hope to be many more conversations this coming year about building a kinder, more resilient and inclusive community where everyone feels like they belong,” Storm said.