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NATICK – More than 200 people attended the Greater Framingham Community Church’s 36th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial celebration breakfast at the Verve Hotel in Framingham on Monday morning.

The master of ceremonies was journalist Malcolm Johnson.

Johnson quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – “King remarked now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. So King was clear in pointing out our strength and coming together,” said Johnson.

U.S. Senator Edward Markey could not attend in person but sent a video message.

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“Dr. King told us that the arc of a moral universe is long, but bends towards justice. But we know that arc will not bend on its own. We need everyone here and all across the nation to be pulling on that are bending it, bending it together, fighting for justice, building the community, and bending it towards equity and justice for everyone. So with Dr. King’s words and Spirit in ours, I pledge to you my partnership in this fight, a fight for liberty, a fight for justice, and a fight for our democracy. God bless Martin Luther King Jr. God bless all of your work and God bless all of you,” said Sen. Markey.

City of Framingham Mayor Charlie Sisitsky and District 9 City Councilor Tracey Bryant read a proclamation honoring 50 years of Greater Framingham Community Church in Framingham. Bryant is a Deacon at the church.

“We proclaim the Greater Framingham Community Church to be a venerable Framingham institution, a pillar of the community, and a model of community service for which we proffer our sincere admiration and gratitude,” read the two City leaders.

State Representative Priscila Sousa was in attendance along with City Councilors Phil Ottaviani Jr., Bryant, John Stefanini, Noval Alexander, and Leora Mallach.

Framingham Police Chief Lester Baker, Deputy Police Chief Sean Riley, Framingham Superintendent of School Bob Tremblay, Framingham Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Equity, Diversity and Community Engagement Tiffany Lillie, and Framingham State University President Nancy Niemi were also in the audience.

The keynote speaker was Olin College President Gilda Barabino. She talked about the importance of health care research for Black americans.

Near the end of the breakfast, famed artist Rob Surette painted a portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a few short minutes.

He told the audience he started painting Dr. King for school assemblies, and has now painted him more than 4,000 times.

Greater Framingham Community Church Pastor Rev. J. Anthony Lloyd said “I often tell my young people, be mindful that any space that you are in, you are to own that space. Own it. Cause you know who you’re, own it cause you are clear about your identity. Own it because you know belong at the table, but you have a voice at the table. Own it because God created you.”

One of the speakers yesterday was Ameryllis Porter, 17, a senior at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School.

The President of the Black Student Union spoke about a time in grade 6 at the age of 12, when a teacher said she wanted a nickname for her because it was too hard to pronounce her first name. The Greater Framingham Community Church teen spoke about finding her voice to say that she want Ameryllis to be her name.

“I never knew how crucial my name was to my identity,” she said. “Going by the name Amy made me feel as if I was forced to put on a mask to hide who I really was. And each day that this continued on, it felt as if the mask was getting tighter and tighter until I had no choice but to take it off. If there’s one thing I learned from this moment, it’s that I have a voice and it’s never too late to use it. And since then I’ve done just that over the years, whenever I felt hopelessness or self-doubt, I’ve continued to look back at this experience to harness the same courage that I used in the past to help me get through whatever hardship I’m going through in the present.”

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Rev. Lloyd also talked about the new monument called Embrace that was unveiled in Boston over the weekend.

“That wonderful moment. I’m looking forward to be able to go there, stand underneath and look up and dream about the possibilities that monument is,” said Rev. Lloyd. “It is about love. It is an act of defiance. It is a statement unequivocally that says, love endures. I want you to understand that because the road that’s in front of us is a difficult one, but it’s going take endurance. And quite frankly, we are going to make it. We are going to make it. We’re going to make.”

“And every time I look around and I see Malcolm there on TV or know of my president of college, or let alone a host of people in this room,” said Rev. Lloyd. “You are first in what you do and we are proud of you and what you do. You inspire others, you inspire my little children, my teenagers by young adults. And when I look at them, I’m reminded. We in good hands, we are in good hands.”

Young professional speaker Alexys Butler, who grew up in Marlborough, spoke about her bumps and bruises along the staircase of life.

“Looking back, I realized that all the bumps and bruises I’ve been getting from the staircase of life were worth it. The Bible tells, the faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. I’ve endured much joy and heartbreak over the last three years, but I truly do believe in this life we’re called to take the journey. God calls us to have faith and traverse the staircase even when it’s dark, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful. Lastly, I’m going to share that how we react to things is important. It’s known that Dr. King was a leader and his life and work, his leadership played a significant role and the freedoms that we especially use black people in this country, enjoy it today. He led with grace, sophistication, and intelligence. He was a man of nonviolence, and the way he responded to every challenge is an inspiration to us. All. Throughout my career, I’ve dealt with some colleagues and leaders who’ve done or said some really hurtful things to me, and while I could have responded in a similar fashion to how those people acted towards me, I chose to rise above and not take their actions personally. My approach similar to Dr. King’s allowed me to realize that people often project their negative thoughts, feelings, or insecurities onto you, and that has nothing to do with you. I’d just like to say for the young people that are here today, whether you’re in high school, college, or just trying to figure out what your next steps might be, I implore you to remain steadfast and hopeful. You’re going to experience so many highs and lows at different times, maybe even simultaneously, but keep going and react with grace. Ask for help, seek community, engage in work that speaks to you, and most importantly, fight your way to the top of that staircase,” said Butler.

Throughout the breakfast Marshalee Kehihem led the crowd in song.

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By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.