Athol Public Library hosts postponed MLK Day event

Visitors to Thursday's event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Athol Public Library. The event was organized by Valuing Our Children.

Visitors to Thursday's event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Athol Public Library. The event was organized by Valuing Our Children. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

Aldrich

Aldrich PHOTO BY GREG VINE—

Aida Feliciano (center), a family support worker with Valuing Our Children (VOC), in front of her display about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s impact on the people of Puerto Rico. Standing with her are Kayla Bosselait (right) and Angelina Howard, both of VOC.

Aida Feliciano (center), a family support worker with Valuing Our Children (VOC), in front of her display about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s impact on the people of Puerto Rico. Standing with her are Kayla Bosselait (right) and Angelina Howard, both of VOC. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 02-13-2024 5:01 PM

ATHOL – A winter storm on Jan. 16 led to the cancellation of an event at Athol Public Library meant to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

But the staff and volunteers of Valuing Our Children, which organized the event, weren’t going to let a minor setback bring an end to their plans to honor the slain civil rights leader. And so, last Thursday, the program originally planned for the day after Dr. King’s birthday took place at the library.

According to Jennifer Aldrich, manager of VOC’s Family Resource Center, last year marked the first time the organization decided to honor Dr. King around the time of his birthday, Jan. 15.

“We always do multicultural events,” said Aldrich, who was interviewed a the event, “and last year we wanted to do something different, and that was to do a Martin Luther King event. So, we did it last year and tried a few things, then we decided we definitely wanted to continue to do it.”

Unlike last year, when a handful of VOC staff took part, “we’re all here right now. We kind of broke out into groups and decided to showcase different people and events in history, different cultures that may have been influenced by Martin Luther King.”

Aldrich said VOC’s youth groups developed interactive activities for the event. In addition, she said, the organization’s LGBTQ group put together a display detailing the impact of Martin Luther King on the gay rights movement.

“We have our Parents Supporting Parents group here, which provides support to parents who are raising a child with special needs,” Aldrich continued. “They have a display talking about the community of people of people who may have special needs and their rights.”

In addition, she said, “We have a staff member who is from Puerto Rico, and she did a whole display on her culture.”

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Aldrich said events honoring Dr. King are important because many people today are unaware of the impact he had on the lives of all Americans.

“I don’t think people see the importance of him or what he did,” she said. “Last year, when our tween group was preparing for the event, one of the facilitators for the teen group showed the kids a 20-minute documentary about Dr. King. But before she started, she said, ‘Can anybody tell me who Martin Luther King was?’ One of them thought he might have been a president, and the others had no idea who he was. People don’t know who Martin Luther King is, and I didn’t realize that. So, it’s important to do something to continue to honor him because I don’t think people really understand how important he was.”

One of the displays at last Thursday’s event was put together by Aida Feliciano, a family support worker with VOC. A native of Puerto Rico, she said Martin Luther King is as important to the people of that island territory as he is to African Americans.

“He went three times to our country,” she said, “and he told us how to go and follow our dreams, to make a difference in our Latino community. Like for me, I am following my dreams. Everybody should follow their dreams.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.