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Martin Luther King Jr. interfaith service showcases ‘unsung heroes’

On Sunday, Feb. 19, the Durham Unitarian Universalist Fellowship invited the UNH community to join them for their Martin Luther King Jr. interfaith service. The service was a part of the “UNH MLK Celebration Series Program,” which is held annually every February in celebration of Black History Month. 

While the service was in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and all of his work regarding civil rights, there was an emphasis placed on the concept of “unsung heroes.” Theses heroes are seen as people that fight for positive change in their communities despite adversity, and might not have received proper credit for the work they do to influence such change.

Sylvia Foster, the educational program coordinator for the UNH Office of Community, Equity and Diversity, spoke to those in attendance and provided the examples of Septima Clark and Bayard Rustin as such unsung heroes.

Clark is often considered the “grandmother” of the American civil rights movement for her work in teaching the African-American community how to read, and how to understand their political rights. Foster ended her reflection with a quote by Clark: “Out of chaos will come something good.” 

The reflection by Foster was followed by a group activity titled “Creating a Circle of Remembrance.” Members in the audience were asked to light a candle in remembrance of an unsung hero in their own lives. Kai Forcey-Rodriguez, a Durham native and a sophomore Russian and Italian studies dual major, lit a candle in remembrance of his grandfather who has taught him the importance of social activism.SCAN-TV

Following this group activity, UNH junior Gabrielle Greaves talked to the audience on the importance of finding a passion and using it to fight for social issues. She expressed how “[Her] generation is coming to find themselves with the same issues as [their] parents and [their] grandparents.”  After urging her audience to find their passions, she emphasized, “…finding what ignites that fire in you is more than important: it is necessary for survival.” Her speech corresponded with her opening quote by Martin Luther King Jr: “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.”

Dr. Courtney Marshall, a former UNH professor of English and women’s studies, followed Greaves’ words with some of her own. She asked the audience three questions during her speech: “What skill do you have?” “What is an issue that you are passionate about?” and finally, “How can you put these two together?” In essence, these are questions that force an individual to see how they can use their skills and passions in a way that creates positive change in the community. Following her speech, the crowd was asked to write down a skill that they could offer that would help to cause social change.

Overall the event was centered around the two themes of remembrance and motivation. The first half of the service was a reflection on past “unsung heroes” and honoring their substantial work, while the end of the service was centered around motivating a community of social activists to have the same strength and courage as those who came before them.

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