More than sixty people attended the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration, “Equality Through Access,” in the Somerville Theatre earlier today. The event featured dancing, singing and other performances by local artists and students. Many Somerville residents came to watch their children and friends perform, and were glad to see “so many familiar faces.”
One of them was Yuette Verdieu, a Haitian native and a Ward 1 School Committee candidate who has lived in Somerville for 17 years. Verdieu is especially glad to see the youth performances and described Martin Luther King, Jr. as an “inspiration.”
“Dr. King is the father of liberty for different backgrounds,” she says. “But the purpose of it all is our youth.”
The event did focus largely on youth, as three of the performances in the two-hour show featured local students from Somerville High School and other schools in the area. Parents were a large part of the audience, as they cheerfully applauded and motivated their children.
The focus on youth was clear throughout the event, as the Master of Ceremonies himself was a music teacher in Somerville Public Schools. Marcus Santos did his job gracefully, never being able to contain his jokes and smiles and drawing constant laughs from the crowd. He says it was an honor to be a part of such an event.
“I have a personal connection with Dr. King,” he says. Santos is a native from Salvador, in Brazil, a place where King’s Civil Rights Movement had a profound influence. But, Santos also highlights his love for the city of Somerville.
“Somerville just gave me too many opportunities,” he continues. “Somerville is the place of my very own American dream.”
Another person chasing the American dream is performer Afro D, whose real name is Pete Shungu. The trumpet player and spoken word poet also highlighted the importance of a sense of community for this event.
“It’s important to me to be an active part of the community and not just a resident,” he says.
Shungu performed twice throughout the event and was one of the most acclaimed artists. His very last performance was a trumpet rendition of “We Shall Overcome.” The song was immediately met by cheers and followed by unison singing, in which proved to be the most memorable moment of the day.
It was Shungu’s spoken word poems, though, that really got to the crowd. His poems expanded the conversation from the Civil Rights Movement lead by Dr. King to a more in-depth analysis of social injustice. His poems touched on subjects like LGBTQ and religious issues.
“Dr. King realized that Civil Rights were more than just African-American rights,” he adds. “It was all about larger struggles.” The young artist also added Dr. King taught him it is “important to be an ally” of all causes. Shungu focused his performances on his slogan, inspired by the work of Ghandi: “see the world, be the change.”
Somerville residents left the Somerville Theatrefeeling like they had accomplished something for the day. Whether it was giving back to the community that gave them so much, teaching people something new or simply enjoying the young people of Somerville’s contributions, everybody can now try to follow the footsteps of Martin Luther King, Jr. to “see the world and be the change.”
–By Lucas Parolin