Diverse Crowd Gathers for Reading of “I Have a Dream” Speech, a Half-Century After King Delivered It
At 3 p.m. Wednesday, bells rang out in Concord and across the country marking 50 years since the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
When the sound of bells from nearby St. Paul’s Church subsided, a group of 25 readers took to a lectern in front of the State House, each reciting a portion of King’s iconic speech. Gov. Maggie Hassan spoke first and last, delivering a proclamation for “Let Freedom Ring Day” and later reading the final portion of King’s speech. In a moving moment, the governor was joined by all in attendance as she read the section beginning with “so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.”
The readers represented all ages and walks of life, from the elderly to the very young; from recent immigrants to Native Americans. In a display of the state’s growing diversity, Granite Staters from Rwanda, Bhutan, the Congo, India, Somalia, and Guatemala stood side by side with students, members of the clergy and several who took part in the civil rights movement.
In her proclamation, Gov. Hassan noted that growing diversity and how it’s changed the state for the better.
“What we do is we – generation to generation – bring people in from the margins, into the heart and soul of our democracy and our communities,” she said. “In each generation as we have done that, we have grown stronger. So that’s what, more than anything, this day is about to me … we were imperfect in our beginning, we continue to be imperfect, but we are making progress.”
Among the speakers was Dr. Candace Cole-McCrea, a retired SEA member, who was followed at the lectern by her son, Kestrel Cole-McCrea. Candace Cole-McCrea said she appreciated the event, though she’d hoped for a greater turnout.
“It was a very respectful event and I appreciated it very much,” she said. “I though it helped renew the energy and spirit for the work we do.”
Reflecting on Dr. King’s vision, she said we haven’t reached our destination quite yet.
“We’re still in the journey and we’ve come a long way,” she said. “It’s very easy to become complacent, but we can’t allow that.”
SEA President Diana Lacey was also given the chance to take part.
“It was an honor to participate in this event,” Lacey said. “I was glad my portion of the speech came in the early part because I was able to really absorb the rest of the speech and sort of take in the full impact of the event.”
“It was extremely moving and I found myself wipe away a few tears,” she said. “I’m not sure if they were tears of joy, pride, or pure inspiration. It was just a great feeling.”
The event was sponsored locally by the New American Africans, Concord Love Your Neighbor Coalition and the American Friends Service Committee. You can read more about the event and watch a brief video recap at the Concord Patch website.