Conversations about civil rights at annual MLK ceremony in Burlington

Published: Jan. 15, 2023 at 11:23 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington officials and the community gathered Sunday to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.

“Martin Luther King Day is, of course, a day of gratitude and recommitment,” said Deborah Archer, American Civil Liberties Union president.

The annual Burlington remembrance ceremony took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church. The annual event was organized by the city of Burlington, the Greater Burlington Multicultural Resource Center, and other organizations to celebrate the civil rights leader and what he stood for.

Organizers say the event is all about educating the public on the experience of being Black in America. “Opportunity would not be parceled out to privileged individuals or groups. But instead, we would be in a situation where that would be the birthright of each and every one of us. More than 60 years later America remains profoundly segregated along racial lines,” Archer said.

She also spoke about systemic racism and how she believes deep forms of it have been embedded in American laws, policies, and practices. Archer shared a moment from her childhood that she says many other people of color have experienced over the course of our history. “I remember the day that we woke up to find that our house and car had been vandalized. KKK had been spray painted on our house and our car. After that, I was terrified to be in that house. That my parents had worked so hard to provide for us,” she said.

Attendees we spoke to say they were touched by Archer’s words and the struggle she and other BIPOC Americans have overcome. “It’s just heartbreaking that we’ve done this all these years. I was really moved by the keynote speaker when she talked about growing up and being terrified because of the discrimination; the violence that was done against her and her family,” said Beth Sachs.

Kim Carson, Burlington’s Racial Equity Inclusion and Belonging director, says these conversations need to be had in order to create change. She believes that being able to come together in this way is what Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted. “It’s about bringing people together and creating a community of what I would call radical belonging. Moving past, past traumas, really always with a moment of reflecting backward. Thinking about what we are going to do to move forward,” she said.

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