In a speech on Aug. 16, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. grappled with the question, “Where do we go from here?”

The question remains relevant today, said James McKim, president of the Manchester branch of the NAACP, during the 39th annual MLK Day celebration hosted by the New Hampshire Martin Luther King Coalition on Monday.

Unlike previous years, the event took place virtually due to the pandemic.

“Since our last celebration, we have seen many heart-wrenching events, from the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others to the storming of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “The words of healing and the philosophy of Dr. King are needed more today than ever.”

King advocated for more than the equality of Black people, McKim said of the civil rights leader assassinated in 1968.

“If you read his writings and listen to his speeches you know he was striving for something much, much bigger: life,” McKim said. “Abundant, harmonious, joyous life for everyone regardless of your race, creed, religion or color.”

The program featured a theme of “Love is Greater than Hate” taken from King’s famous speech. McKim led a virtual choir in the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — often called “The Black National Anthem” — written as a poem by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson.

Eleven guests, including U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster, read excerpts on video from the “Where do we go from here?” speech King gave at a Southern Christian Leadership Conference convention.

King recognized setbacks would occur in the fight for equality.

“And I must confess, my friends, that the road ahead will not always be smooth,” King said. “There will still be rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. And there will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair.”

Nearly 100 people took part in a Zoom discussion of King’s words from the speech.

Rabbi Beth Davidson, of Temple Adath Yeshurun in Manchester, spoke in a video of the challenges of COVID-19 and prejudices of the past year.

“2020 may have just ended, but I fear that prejudice against and denigration of people of color will not end unless and until we take up the charge to be the change,” she said.

She encouraged participants to look to people in the past for inspiration, including King, and to carry out their work.

“It is our responsibility to build a society that doesn’t make decisions based about its members based on the color of one’s skin,” she said. “It is our responsibility to ensure that everyone has equal access to health care, good schools, higher education and a job market that will welcome them. It is our responsibility to remember that all people are created in the image of God and thus deserving of respect.”

 
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