Keynote speaker says, 'Dr. King didn't stop, and neither should we'

Seemingly determined to make each annual tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. outshine the last, the Milford Chapter of The Links, Incorporated on Sunday hosted an event that paired solemn remembrances with entertainment that repeatedly brought an appreciative audience to its feet.

For the 30th year, The Links, Inc., a non-profit service organization, hosted Reflections to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King. Attendees packed the City Hall auditorium and balcony even as snow swirled outside.

In welcoming their guests, The Links set the tone by asking everyone to “look for opportunities to love and to be a friend in our communities.”

Dignitaries like U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro cited both the accomplishments of Dr. King, and the areas where work still needs to be done, like economic inequality. She was joined on stage by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, state Senator Gayle Slossberg and Milford Board of Alderman Chairman Phil Vetro, standing in for Mayor Ben Blake.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to us of ‘the fierce urgency of now’,” Congresswoman DeLauro said. “Today, the unemployment rate for African Americans in the U.S. is nearly double that of whites. Of the 46 million Americans who live in poverty, 26% — the largest percentage — are African Americans. The median income for the American family is $54,000, but the median income for the African American family is $35,000.”

Congresswoman DeLauro said, “Let it be our continuing mission to reform the criminal justice system, and to eliminate economic inequality. And to fight for liberty and justice with the fierce urgency of now.”

Throughout the event, remarks like these were balanced with memorable musical and dance performances.

The Foran High School Advanced Vocal Ensemble — whose sound Sen. Slossberg called angelic — was joined on the program by the Bridgeport Boys Choir. In one selection, Bridgeport Boys Choir soloist Ajibola Tajudeen brought down the house with his rendition of Take Me to the King.

But lest there be no seeing these young men as simply singers, mid-performance they each introduced themselves to the audience and described their personal career goals.

Rounding out the performances were the First Baptist Church Youth Praise Dancers. As Link President Cheri Amado noted, First Baptist Church of Milford has partnered with The Links, Inc. for the entire 30 years that Reflections has been held.

This year, First Baptist Church also contributed the keynote speaker, the Rev. Horace A. Hough, who is the church’s Interim Pastor. In addition to this responsibility, Rev. Hough also serves as vice principal of Pathways Academy, a faith-based private all boys middle school in Danbury.

In his keynote speech, Rev. Hough wasted no time in provoking thought about Dr. King and people’s impressions of him.

“You know I find myself getting into arguments about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on a regular basis,” Rev. Hough said. “Maybe it’s because I read and research so much, and I just need people to know there was more to Dr. King than a great speech and a march on Washington, DC.

“Let’s not only look at Dr. King up to that point, but to also remember his full message and the many things he did from the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in 1963 until his death.”

Rev. Hough cited, as an example, the fact that Dr. King pushed beyond demands for civil rights to rousing calls for human rights.  “We also have to remember how he spoke out so strongly against the Vietnam War, and talk about the years up to and through 1967 when he extended past a discussion of equality into activism for true economic equality,” Rev. Hough said.

Rev. Hough acknowledged that while Dr. King’s oft-quoted speeches were inspirational and worthy of remembering, “Dr. King knew change was about much more than talk.”

“To remember Dr. King has to be remembering his full message. That King on the wall existed, but he also continued to grow. He kept growing and doing beyond what people normally think about him.”

If Dr. King could fly by America now, Rev. Hough said he believes that “Dr. King would still see promise in who we are today. He would see that God is still working in us.

“Even with things looking like they’re going backward, we can still make a change. We can still stand for what’s right; we can still have hope. Dr. King didn’t stop, and neither should we.”