Saratoga events to celebrate the life of MLK

Several events in Saratoga Springs will celebrate the life of civil right activist, Martin Luther Ki
Hollyday Hammond is chairwoman of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee of Saratoga Springs.
Hollyday Hammond is chairwoman of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee of Saratoga Springs.

Hollyday Hammond is ready to remember Martin Luther King Jr.

Several events in Saratoga Springs will celebrate the life of the civil right activist, who was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968. Martin Luther King Day is Monday.

Hammond, chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Planning Committee of Saratoga Springs and a clinical social worker in the city, said the observance has been held for the past 15 years.

Among the events:

Today, New Jersey’s Meta Theatre Company will perform excerpts from “Hello My Name Is … ” a play co-written with inmates of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, a female prison in Union Township, N.J. Also on the program is “Inside-Out: Poets Reading from the Experience of Incarceration.” Panelists will react to the performance and lead discussion. The free program will be held at the Saratoga Springs Public Library and begin at 2 p.m.

On Monday, the official observance of Martin Luther King Day will begin in Saratoga at the public library at 1:30 p.m. and feature an address by Karen Gaffney and performances by the Meta Theatre Company, the Arbor Hill Starlites stepping team and short dramatic vignettes by Saratoga’s Humanitarian Youth for Transformation. The program will be free.

A Q&A with Hammond:

Q: Why do you think it’s so important to keep this program going?

A: The same problems still exist. Racial inequality, economic inequality. Dr. King was so articulate about the problems that faced our country in the ’60s. He gave a eulogy when James Reeb, a Unitarian minister who was killed when he went to join the protests in Selma, was murdered. And Dr. King, at his eulogy, said, “Naturally, we are compelled to ask the question ‘Who killed James Reeb?’ The answer is simple.” But if we shift — and this isn’t an exact quote — but if we shift and ask a different question, the more difficult question is “What killed James Reeb.” And we could replace James Reeb’s name with Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice. We could go on and on. And rather than pointing a person at a particular person, whether it’s a cop or a white supremacist, we need to look at what has createdthese conditions and perpetuated these conditions, and that’s a lot harder and that’s a richer conversation, a more helpful conversation.

Q: How has Saratoga supported this program in the past?

A: It’s really grown. The last two years, last year and this year, we expanded from having one day to having three days and the community wants it and has been incredibly supportive. We went from having a budget of $800 to having one of $5,000 and this year, probably $6,500. We’ve gotten a couple of small grants and private donors, churches, friends, small businesses saying “Yes, we want more of this.” That’s really impressive, in two years, to go from $800 to $6,500.

Q: Where do you see this program going in the future?

A: My personal vision is to not have programs like this, simply one or three days a year around his birthday. There are several of us who really want to start having regular community events and forums so we’re not dropping the conversation, it has to be ongoing, part of our ordinary life.

Q: What can people do to apply Dr. King’s teachings on a regular basis? What can everyday people do?

A: Not ignore when you hear somebody make an offensive statement, whether it’s insensitive to black people or Muslim people or gay people, that you don’t ignore it. We need to simply say, “’I find that offensive.”

The other thing to do is really educate ourselves. Especially white people; we have a responsibility because we don’t know what it’s like. I just read an article, comparing it, like you grew up in the tropics and never experienced snow. We’ve never experienced what it’s like to be someone of color in a predominantly white country.

Q: Has it been hard to organize this observance, and get all the parts and people together?

A: Of course. I probably have around 75 people I’m texting, e-mailing, calling, all these different loose ends, just making sure. We are all volunteers, you hear that expression, “If you want something done, ask a busy person,” so everyone is super busy but really dedicated. The energy is going to be phenomenal.

And also, the other thing that’s challenging is we want people to come to this, it’s a holiday weekend and people think, “Oh, I want to go skiing, I want to have fun.” We really want people to come out to these events … we want to let as many people know in advance to consider this, especially for their kids. This is something really important to expose their children to and have them engaged. We have a lot of young people participating in the program for that reason.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124, [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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