January 18, 2005: Headlines: Directors - Gearan: Civil Rights: Finger Lakes Times: Mark Gearan talks about Martin Luther King Day

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Mark Gearan: January 18, 2005: Headlines: Directors - Gearan: Civil Rights: Finger Lakes Times: Mark Gearan talks about Martin Luther King Day

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Mark Gearan talks about Martin Luther King Day

Mark Gearan talks about Martin Luther King Day

Mark Gearan talks about Martin Luther King Day

Marchers brave frigid weather for MLK parade


Times Staff Writer

GENEVA — West Street second-grader Kaylee Ryan dressed for the weather.

“I’m wearing two layers of pants ... two layers of gloves and two sweaters,” said Ryan, who marched in her first-ever Martin Luther King Day parade Monday.

The march, which started at the Public Safety Building on Exchange Street and ended at the Presbyterian Church in Geneva, drew close to a 100 people, despite frigid temperatures and near-whiteout conditions, said Rosa Blue, who chairs the Martin Luther King Committee.

“It could have been sleeting. It wouldn’t have mattered,” said Ryan’s mother, Donna Davenport. “Martin Luther King is one of the most important human beings that ever lived.”

For many, the day marked an occasion to not only remember King’s many accomplishments but to continue his fight for racial equality.

Jim and Peggy Richmond remember well the day they heard King speak at Keuka College some 40 years ago.

“He was talking about the way things are today and what we have to do to progress,” recalled Jim, former president of the local NAACP chapter.

“It’s our duty to commemorate what he has done,” Peggy said, but she stressed that the fight is far from over. “We’ve come a long way, but we haven’t gotten there yet.”

For Lonnie Mallard, who has been marching in the Geneva parade since its inception 34 years ago, it gets “better and better and better” each time.

“This program brings a lot of blacks and whites together,” Mallard said, noting that nearly half of this year’s participants were white.

Following the 30-minute walk, participants congregated at the Presbyterian church for doughnuts and coffee. The church service — which included singing by the MLK Memorial Choir and an address by Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ President Mark Gearan — began at 11 a.m. MLK Committee treasurer Lucile Mallard served as mistress of ceremonies.

HWS Assistant Director of Intercultural Affairs Chevanne DeVaney introduced Gearan by highlighting his numerous political accomplishments, including his tenure as director of the Peace Corps from 1995 to 1999.

Gearan took a moment to thank many in the audience who made the event possible.

“I will not attempt to match their oratorical skills or their elegance,” Gearan said, before describing how the day became a national holiday more than two decades ago.

“It was the first holiday that had been created since 1948,” Gearan said, stressing that recently deceased Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm began pushing for the holiday in the early 1980s. Then President Ronald Reagan signed the day into law in 1983.

The holiday became a national day of service under the Clinton administration, added Gearan, who served in that administration.

“The King family and others have urged us to save this as a day on, not a day off,” Gearan said.

In keeping with that motto, Gearan noted that several HWS students have been raising money for Save the Children, to help victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami that swept across southern Asia.

Citing statistics and figures, Gearan also emphasized that Americans have yet to achieve true racial equality.

“The work that Dr. King talked about is far from over,” Gearan said. “The unemployment rate for black Americans is double the rate for white Americans. The percentage of black Americans living in poverty is climbing every year ... .”

Gearan stressed the need to keep King’s message current with the passage of time, noting that many of the Colleges’ incoming freshman this fall were born nearly 20 years after King died.

“It may seem like an ancient time to some,” said Gearan, who thinks all students should read not only King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech, but also his less widely known “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.”

That letter, Gearan said, “will make sure that we don’t give our children a sanitized view of the civil rights movement.”

Finally, Gearan described how he finds meaning in King’s message despite his status as a white American.

“Martin Luther King redeemed the dream of the United States,” Gearan said, noting that the civil rights leader gave Americans a sense of “moral purpose.”

That moral purpose continues into today, said Gearan, who stressed that all Genevans should strive to turn the city into “a model of fairness.”

We should be able to say, Gearan concluded “that we don’t just deal with diversity but that we take pride in it.”

Following Gearan’s speech, Rosa Blue presented several community members with plaques.

Karen Baer, executive director of the city’s Commission on Human Rights won the community service award for her dedication and commitment. Charles Kenney and Lucile Mallard won heritage awards, which are given in memory of MLK Committee founding members.

As part of this week’s Martin Luther King Day celebration, Rochester Mayor William Johnson will speak Wednesday at the Colleges. His talk, titled “Why We Celebrate Martin Luther King Day,” will be at 4:30 p.m. in the Geneva Room of the HWS Warren Hunting Smith Library. The public is welcome.

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Story Source: Finger Lakes Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Directors - Gearan; Civil Rights



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