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MLK, race relations discussed at local event

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Artis Allen, pastor at Mt. Gilead Missionary Baptist Church of Roswell, speaks at an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday in the Instructional Technology Center at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. (Alex Ross Photo)

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Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell and members of the community of Roswell celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday.

Ricky Williams, superintendent of Hagerman Municipal Schools, speaks at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event Monday in the Instructional Technology Center at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. He spoke about the need for people and society to continue to champion the values of equality that King stood for. (Alex Ross Photo)

Attendees at an hour-long ceremony at the ENMU-R campus’ Instructional Technology Center enjoyed cake and heard from speakers about King, the civil rights leader and apostle of non-violence.

Since 1983, the third Monday in January has been observed as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday.

Artis Allen, pastor at Mt. Gilead Missionary Baptist Church in Roswell, said before his speech that the day is about more than King, who would have turned 91 on Jan. 15. The day is also about making sure people remember the events and struggles of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

“It’s about an era, a period of time that this country went through, where they went through some struggles, and Dr. King was one of the primary people to address these struggles,” Allen said.

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Having grown up in the era of civil rights demonstrations, when African-Americans were still discriminated against in public accommodations, and education, Allen said King had a profound impact on his life.

“Dr. King was an individual that I grew up admiring and wanted to emulate one day,” he said.

Allen said when preparing his speech, he wanted to know how America’s public schools have approached educating young people about King and the civil rights movement.

He said that he came across an online post from a 17-year-old girl from Beacon High School in New York, who said that too often King is treated by schools as a historical relic.

“Martin Luther King Day has become the day that people get off school, it doesn’t really mean what it should,” Allen said, reading from the web post by the girl.

He also read an online posting by a high school social studies teacher in New York, who wrote that many of his students think the civil rights movement for racial equality is something that began in the 1960s rather then something that still applies to issues today.

Ricky Williams, superintendent of Hagerman Municipal Schools, told the audience there is a need to look at society’s progression on race, and champion the cause of racial harmony that King espoused.

He said that as hard and uncomfortable as it is, people need to have a discussion about race.

He said that keeping King’s dream alive and moving closer to that dream can begin with people loving each other.

“Your takeaway today is to go love someone,” Williams said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.