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   Dr. Martin Luther King Day Celebration 2007 

Stories of Courage Inspire Martin Luther King Day Celebration
by Patric Hedlund
The Mountain Enterprise

"I remember the first time I was called nigger.... It was New York City, I was a Texas girl nine years old standing on a street corner licking an ice cream cone...a car goes by and voices yell out, 'go home nigger...!'" The story is being told by a neighbor from Pine Mountain.

She is grown now, a mother herself. Her children play happily with others, tumbling like puppies in the center of a pleasant room ringed by about 20 adults exchanging tales - moments of insight - when they first collided personally as children with the hard fact that we live in a world often divided in ways that can chill the heart.

Chuck Testa told of his family being called "Guinea Wops" by people opposed to Italian immigration to the United States.

For a passing second, a flicker of the confusion experienced as a small child crosses like a shadow over the face of each person telling a story.

That flicker hints at the astonishing experience of encountering a wall of hatred from a perfect stranger for the first time, the kind of hatred that springs from something mysterious to youngsters not yet indoctrinated in the science of fear and control that is at the root of racism.

Simba Roberts told of growing up in Texas, learning how to put out fire bombs with strips of wet sheets when the Ku Klux Klan came on Night Rides to terrorize his neighborhood of 300 African American families.

Ruth Handy and Kwan Hearns spoke about the need to step forward to speak gently to awaken our friends and acquaintances when we hear unconscious expressions of prejudice toward others.

Heidi Puskar from Finland said she had never heard of Martin Luther King in her schools as a girl. "I didn't know about segregation in the schools in America."

Paul Puskar said "My wife brought me here today. I learned historical things I didn't know about before. It is ironic, watching our children Lisel and Hans playing together with the other children here, surrounded by the pictures of Martin Luther King's struggles to make such things normal."

He said he is working on a documentary film called "In Search of Kennedy," about the legacy of leadership from the era of the man known as JFK and the man known as MLK, considering how the qualities they brought to their times might serve us in meeting the challenges of our own.

At the MLK memorial, a moment of silence is held, asking for the safety of soldiers who are in Iraq at this moment, in harm's way as people commit warfare and murder guided by prejudice based on religious differences.

Celebrating an Inspiring Life
by Ruth Handy, Pine Mountain

In the summer of 1966, at the age of 19, I felt very moved by Martin Luther King's commitment to the ideal of non-violence.

I decided to honor this feeling, to overcome my fear and to join the open-housing marches led by Dr. King near Chicago, where I lived. I walked with others, including nuns, priests and ministers of many faiths. Even though police protected us - walking on both sides of our marchers - rocks were thrown at us, and some people were injured. We continued to have faith in our purpose of bringing equality to all without letting our minds think of violence or revenge.

We knew that Dr. King had been jailed in Birmingham, Alabama, where he wrote one of his most renowned speeches. He did not stop his activism and was not afraid despite receiving as many as fifty death threats a day for his efforts to fulfill the dream of white and black children living in community together. Toward the end of his life, Martin Luther King knew that he probably would not live to see the fulfillment of his dream. He was not disturbed. He had been granted a vision of an America free of racial tension and hatred.

Dr. King set a high standard for a purpose-driven life of faith. He followed the principles of Jesus. He studied and honored Mahatma Gandhi, who helped bring independence to India.

As a resident of Pine Mountain today, I continue to feel great admiration for Dr. King's courage. He helped establish in America that all people are created equal. There are no longer hidden barriers for people of color to own homes even in remote areas such as our Mountain Communities. We do not have to be afraid.

King taught us that non-violence can remain a goal uppermost in our minds when facing difficulties with our neighbors, fellow students or even people driving the freeway near us.

Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965.

His "I have a dream" speech from August, 1963 at the Washington Monument is shown on TV every year near his brithday.

In fact, January 15 is now a national holiday and this year, mountain residents are invited to a celebration in music and film on Saturday, Jan. 13, 12:30 p.m. to honor Dr. King, at the Jizo Peace Center at 2012 Pioneer Way, in Pine Mountain. Mel Weinstein's photos from his trip to the King Center in Atlanta, Gelorgia will be on display. Call (661) 242-6956 for more information.


Ruth HandyRuth Handy of the Jizo Peace Center at the ceremony commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the World War II atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. Handy was on a Peace Pilgrimage with people from numerous countries gathered at the Hiroshima Peace Park. Above, she is with a Japanese friend who played music for the event to honor those killed by the atomic bomb and to dedicate themselves to seek nonviolent means of resolving conflict.


Ruth Ratna Handy, LCSW
(818) 834-5925


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