Thirty voices belted out “We Shall Overcome” while walking through Belfast streets with candles in their hands Monday night in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
The message was solemn, but hopeful.
“It’s important to get a group of people dedicated to the betterment of mankind,” said Joe Perry, president of the Greater Bangor NAACP, who participated in the gathering at First Church immediately after the five-minute march.
At the church, songs of hope, liberty and freedom were sandwiched between readings from King’s writings and speeches.
“We have to claim the righteous stance we have: to love other human beings,” said Meredith Bruskin of Swanville. “I love to read what we read. It fulfills me.”
Readings included “I Have A Dream,” “Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence” and “The Letter From Birmingham Jail.”
Percy Daley helped put on the event, which was sponsored by Waldo County for Peace and Justice. Daley read from the “Roll Call of Martyrs,” the names of people, black and white, who died in the fight for equal rights.
“We all need to remember that the world can be improved if we work on it,” Daley said. “These people just did things because they thought they were right, and they got killed for it. It’s a never-ending struggle.”
Daley’s daughter Julia Daley played with her young daughter’s hands as she spoke at the event in First Church.
“I received the message from my father, Percy Daley, that we are all equal. We must pass on that message,” she said. “Find a way to tell a child.”
Lorraine Haynes of Searsport, one of the few black people in attendance, supported that thought.
“We try to teach our children to respect one another, people of all races,” she said, her elementary school-age son at her side. “This child goes to a good school in Searsport, and I am very grateful for that.”
The questions and comments part of the event at the church opened the crowd up to talk about Maine and civil rights today.
Nathaniel Bennett of Searsmont, who recently took a course about culture and diversity from the University of Maine, said reading the works of King and Malcolm X gave him a new perspective.
Specifically addressing the white members of the audience, Bennett said, “I didn’t understand we are — no matter how bad we have it — we’re really, truly privileged human beings.”