February 20, 2019
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MLK Day speaker from Bangor recalls growing up in segregated South

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Mary Hunter, 92, was the keynote speaker at an event commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday in Bangor.

BANGOR, Maine — Local families celebrated diversity during a series of activities offered in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday at the Bangor Housing Authority’s community center on Davis Road.

Those who turned out got to sample international foods, try out dance moves from countries around the globe, try their hand at various crafts and discuss “ The Name Jar,” a children’s book about a little girl name Unhei who moves to the United States from Korea and considers changing her name because she thinks it will help her better fit in with her classmates.

A keynote address was delivered by Mary Hunter, 92, of Bangor, who described what it was like to grow up in the segregated South in the 1920s and 1930s and how King helped bring about change.

Hunter, whose late husband, John, owned a barber shop on Hancock Street in Bangor, grew up in Athens, Georgia, in a time when there were separate schools, churches and other places for black and white people.

“So, I had to learn to accept those things. My parents said, ‘Black, you stay back. Whites, you go forward.’ So that’s still with me. But mingling with different races, different colors, is helping me to continue to grow,” said Hunter, who moved to Maine after she got married in 1952.

“Then Dr. King came along,” she said. “He didn’t seem to like the idea of being segregated, so he started [working for] integration. That was after I got out of school. His family was in danger. He risked his life, and he was killed, not just for his own race but for all to be equal, to get an education and have opportunities,” Hunter said of King’s legacy.

“It was very dangerous for us in the South,” she said. “My parents were very protective. We couldn’t do many things we wanted to; for instance, I always wanted to go into the military, become a missionary and further my education.”

Hunter also shared with her audience one of King’s hopes for the world, that his four children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

“He said that in 1963, and it still rings true today. You young people are the ones to carry on his legacy and make this happen,” she said.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities were the result of a group effort that involved Community Partnerships for Protecting Children, the Bangor Housing Authority, the Boys and Girls Club of Bangor, AmeriCorps, Eastern Maine Development Corp., Youth Move Maine, Literacy Volunteers of Bangor and the Spruce Run-Womancare Alliance.

 



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