'Wake up, people': Milford reflects on Martin Luther King Jr. legacy

MILFORD — A lot has changed since 1968, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his speech, “The Other America,” but the reality of social injustice and racism remain, according to Tekisha Everette.

“Is this the dream?” Everette, the CEO of the nonprofit agency Health Equity Solutions, asked in her keynote speech during Milford’s annual Reflections tribute to King. “We have a global pandemic where African Americans and Latinos are disproportionally hospitalized.”

Everette also pointed out the disparity in police response between the storming of the U.S. Capitol, “where people were nicely asked to leave” and the response to the protests following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, where demonstrators were tear gassed.

“Is this the dream?” she repeated.

The Reflections tribute is a tradition dating back 35 years, according to Mayor Ben Blake.

“We traditionally have it in City Hall, which we obviously couldn’t do because of the pandemic,” he said. “But it’s important to us to have that connection with the city, so we moved it online this year, and we were able to keep that connection.”

Blake gave his remarks from his City Hall office, and also read a proclamation declaring Jan. 18 as a memorial day of nonviolence and crusading for human rights in Milford.

“In keeping with Dr. King’s legacy, each of us can and must contribute to making our communities better,” he said. “I urge my fellow citizens to observe this day with appropriate civic, community and service projects in honor of Dr. King.”

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., another one of the speakers at the Reflections tribute, tied the civil rights message of the day to the current state of the country.

“The pandemic has further exposed the racial inequities that we all know exist,” she said.

Members of minority communities, she said, are more likely to suffer from the effects of COVID-19, and less likely to be vaccinated, she said. And an insurrection led by “white nationalists and Confederate flag wavers who sought to overturn a national election” shook the nation, she said.

“Even in 2021, they still relished the sight of a noose swinging in the nation’s capital,” she said referring to a widely circulated photo of gallows erected in Washington, D.C.

The images further reinforce that there are two Americas, she said.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., remarked that the country was about to inaugurate a new president and vice president, and called Kamala Harris’ election “historic and momentous.”

“My hope is that they will live out through their administration the life and legacy of Martin Luther King,” he said.

Everette concluded the virtual gathering with an admonition to all to take an active role in battling racism and bigotry wherever it may be.

“We have come so far, but we have so much further to go,” she said. “Any inqequity is unacceptable.”

She urged people to wake up and become dedicated to ongoing injustice.

“Wake up people. Wake up from the delusion that we’ve done all that we can do, and that the problem is just too large,” she said. “Declare yourself today an anti-racist. And ask yourself each day, ‘What have I done to eradicate racial inequities?’ If not you who stands up in the face of racial injustice, who shall it be?”

deng@trumbulltimes.com