By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – April 4, 1968. It’s a date that forever transformed the fabric of this country.
On this tragic day, at 6pm, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot. Many believe the assassination was the result of a speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence,” the civil rights activist made exactly one year before. Denouncing America’s involvement in the Southeast Asia conflict, the same speech was once again read exactly 51 years later by City of Newburgh resident, Mark Carter, Jr. Containing alternative means to combating the ails of communism and strife in this region, the detailed and highly articulate words of King symbolized his commitment to non-violence as well as alternative means of diplomacy, community, brotherhood, peace and love as the most effective means of combating hatred and evil. It’s that message, along with a host of others, which incited the Black History Committee of the Hudson Valley to remember, celebrate and continually remind the community of the very relevant nature of Dr. King on the 51st anniversary of his assassination. With a mission focused on “illuminating moments in history that impact the nation,” The Black History Committee, aspires to unite, as well as inspire the community through educational and entertaining events.
“It is important for the community to continually reflect on Dr. King’s legacy of non-violence,” said Sadie Tallie, President of the Black History Committee. “Our theme, Beloved Community, Moving Forward, encourages us to strive for peace and harmony.”
Beginning with a Community March, led by the Newburgh Free Academy Marching Band, and concluding at the Old Newburgh Court House, the activity-laden event, “Commemorating the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” continued in the Community Room of the Newburgh Free Library where guest speakers, musical selections, a special acknowledgement of the Newburgh Frederick Douglas Initiative as well as a community litany of remembrance filled the informative, moving program. For over two hours, residents of all ages, saluted the legacy of a man whose presence and indelible impact is felt every day in Newburgh and beyond.
One of the evening’s speakers, was Bishop Terry Dorsey, Black History Committee Vice President, who reminded the audience that the very issues MLK strove so valiantly to resolve, still remain alive today. He further relayed the responsibility we all have to continue his critical, non-violent, and very persistent fight.
“Here we are 51 years later, and we are still in a struggle as a people; yes we are,” affirmed Dorsey. “We do not take this day lightly, as MLK reminded us of the cycle of poverty and violence; we must continue to develop Dr. King’s non-violent message.” He continued, “Love and trust prevail over fear and hatred, which is needed to create a beloved community, and to know the goal of justice always requires sacrifice and suffering.”
Also offering remarks was Phil Howard, Newburgh Enlarged City School District Board Member, who spoke about the tough, but necessary actions of heroes such as Rosa Parks and those involved in The Brown vs. Board of Education Case as well as the Montgomery Lunch Counter sit-in. He further stressed the need for people to know their own history, as it repeats itself, and contains priceless wisdom.
“To move forward, we must know our history,” said Howard. “Fifty-one years ago something happened that has shaken the core of our society.” He added, “The things we take for granted today, were not always available, and we must go backward in order to go forward.”