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Manchester marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a focus on 'beloved community'

Granite Staters gathered in Manchester on Monday for the 41st Martin Luther King Jr. Day Community Celebration.

The celebration is coordinated annually by a group of local organizations including the American Friends Service Committee, City Year New Hampshire, the Granite State Organizing Project and the Greater Manchester NAACP.

The theme of this year’s event was “Communication Across Difference: Toward Beloved Community,” a term King popularized. Introducing the event, Manchester NAACP President James McKim said King's lessons were timely and resonant.

“We are in a time of division in our country that some say is akin to what we experienced at the onset of the United States Civil War. I think we are in a more complex time,” McKim said. “The words and actions of Dr. King ring true as guideposts, even in this modern time."

Civics 101: Inside the fight to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day in New Hampshire

Two panels – one of young Granite Staters, and another of New Hampshire policy makers – discussed what “beloved community” meant for them. Melina Hill Walker, a program director at the Endowment for Health, spoke about her childhood in Hanover, and the work the state has ahead.

“When my family moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, in 1968 – yes, 1968 – communication across difference wasn't always made toward the beloved community. It wasn't always made peacefully. Children in the schools can often be the cruelest and most distant from the beloved community,” she said. “As we think about our beautiful state of New Hampshire, I am hoping that we can all seek to preserve and create community, to work towards the core value of the quest for the beloved community: Agape love, which starts with the ability to communicate across difference respectfully and peacefully.”

The celebration also included musical performances and a reading of excerpts from King’s 1962 address to Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

Grace Kindeke was presented the 2023 MLK, Jr. Award for her work as an activist, artist and community organizer.

Manchester School District Chief Equity Officer Tina Philibotte, Equity Leaders Fellowship Program Director Jason Bonilla, YWCA Chief Diversity Officer Emerald Anderson-Ford, and high school student Sarah Naje were also honored with awards.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.

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