DOVER — The life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as his dream of equality for all people, were celebrated by the Inner City Cultural League on Monday.
While ICCL’s event was hosted virtually for the second consecutive year due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and was plagued by some technical snags — the message of service to community rang out loud and clear on what would have been Dr. King’s 93rd birthday.
Dr. Vilicia Cade, superintendent of the Capital School District, was introduced as the keynote speaker by former Delaware State University president Dr. Wilma Mishoe.
“Today should be a day of service in our community,” Dr. Cade said. “It is a great opportunity today to stop and remember the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He had a vision of hope — and we need hope today more than ever.”
She concluded her message of Dr. King’s vision by challenging those participating to make a pledge of “unity through love.”
Dignitaries from throughout the state joined in virtually with the shared idea that now is a perfect time — with a deeply divided country — to heed Dr. King’s philosophy about equality for all people.
Gov. John Carney said advances toward racial justice are being made, but there is still a lot of work to do.
“We are here to honor and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” he said. “Though we are unable to gather in person this year, it’s important that we take time to come together virtually to recognize the work of Dr. King and to celebrate his legacy with a day of service.
“I was still a young boy when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. In many ways, it’s hard to believe that it was more than 50 years ago, but we don’t have to look far to see how Dr. King’s legacy continues to shape our lives here in Delaware.”
The governor said the pandemic has made the chasm between races and cultures stand out greatly over the past two years.
“This pandemic has made evident the deep inequities that stem from racial injustice in our state,” he said. “It’s been more important than ever for every Delawarean to fight for a more just future.
“We have made good progress in many ways in the fight for racial justice here, but there is still more work to be done.”
Gov. Carney said that he looks forward to continuing that work with the General Assembly.
He added that the most important priority over his next three years as governor will be to improve educational opportunities for children of color.
“We owe all our children and their families our best efforts to secure a better future,” he said. “It’s clear that we have a lot more to do, but I am confident that we will continue to make progress.”
U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester thanked ICCL for what the organization does in the state’s capital city to help empower young minorities.
“Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in this event to celebrate the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Rep. Blunt Rochester said. “I’d like to start off by thanking (ICCL founder) Reuben Salters, (ICCL artistic director) Michael Brown and everyone else in the Inner City Cultural League for all of your work in the community and for putting this event together.
“This year, I know we’re all missing the normal performances and presentations that we usually have at this event. The songs and art of the movement for civil rights throughout our history are legendary. And there’s no better way to honor it (than) by passing it on to future generations — work that you do (with the ICCL) every day.”
She said that on MLK Day, she is often reminded of a song — “Walk Together Children, Don’t Get Weary” — that was sung during the civil rights movement and is still heard in churches and the community today.
“Right now, you may be feeling a little weary, whether it’s COVID or just the current situation,” she said. “But I want to tell you, the way that we get rid of weary is to walk together.”
Delaware Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro said the best way to remember Dr. King is to try your best to emulate his actions.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Day is a day on, not a day off,” he said. “It’s the only federal holiday designated as a day of service. We honor our hero, and we serve our neighbors. We strive to be our better selves, and we continue towards the world’s work towards equality.
“During the pandemic, our collective effort is needed now more than ever. So today, and every day, find a way to serve, whether it’s donating your time, money, blood, food, or even just helping out a neighbor. Whether you have a lot or a little, everyone has the capacity to give back and to serve our community, just as everyone has the capacity to love,” he said.
“As Dr. King once said, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?’ Let us answer that question with our actions each and every day.”