By Jennifer L. Warren
BEACON – “God makes each of us different so that we know our need for one another.”
Jennifer Baker-McClinton uttered these words Monday morning inside the City of Beacon’s Springfield Baptist Church. The Chairperson of the Southern Dutchess Coalition, Inc. as well as chief organizer of its Annual Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. 46th Birthday Celebration, who took over those esteemed reigns several years ago from her mother and the event’s original Founder, the Reverend Barbara E. Baker, Baker-McClinton is quick to cite the profound meaning and deep roots of the long-standing community celebration.
“Today’s event really embodies commitment to human connection and brotherly love, reaffirming the missions of Martin Luther King, Jr., which are; tolerance, love, understanding, compassion and being interconnected.” She continued, “This is the one day a year where this Church looks as diverse as it does, and it’s a wonderful thing to see.”
That blend of different races, cultures, ages and backgrounds was on full display Monday as the packed Church took part in an eclectic ensemble of activities, saluting Dr. King as well as paying homage to pieces close to his heart: community, relationships, and service. The day kicked off outside, amidst cold temperatures and a sunny backdrop, as a large contingent made their way through the streets of the City of Beacon, taking part in the Annual Pete and Toshi Seeger Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade, holding up signs with MLK themes, messages and photos while chanting uplifting melodies. Following that motivational Round-up, attendees to the program made their way back into the warm Church, where several guest speakers delivered words about the lasting impact of Dr. King.
“Dr. King would have been 95 years old today; so what would he have thought about the world today?” challenged Assemblyman, Jonathan Jacobson, who alluded to the pride he would have felt about African-American advancements, but horror that would have plagued him regarding violence and hate crimes and the numbness many have toward them as well as disappointment over taking the right to vote for granted. “Dr. King was never a politician, but he had as much to do with the decisions made in this country as any of them.” Jacobson continued, “What can we learn from Dr. King?” He quickly answered his query, “We can all make a difference, no matter how we choose to participate; as one of Dr. King’s quotes talks about: Let us all keep moving forward.”
That upward progress was displayed in yet another authentic and popular segment of the event’s agenda: The announcement of the six Dr. MLK Jr. youth (open to Beacon City School District students) Essay Contest Winners: Conan O’ Shea, Kevin Boyle, Sam Mack, Evan Pantojas, Suvi O’Shea, and Syeira Kozlik, four of whom read those pieces-in full-or excerpts of-from behind the front podium- to all in attendance. Their inspiring words interpreted one of King’s famous quotes as well as applied it to their own journeys, displaying how the importance of as well as pursuance of King’s “Dream” remains alive in 2024.
“One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King is about how you don’t need a college degree to serve, all you need is a heart; you don’t need to do a lot, can just do one thing, and that can make all the difference,” said another one of the morning’s speakers, Senator Rob Rolison. “I always say to young children: Can you just imagine what the world would be like if we could all just do that one thing.”