PLATTSBURGH — A crowd of roughly 100 people braved the cold January weather Monday to celebrate the life and message of Martin Luther King Jr.

The message was work together with love.

“This is not the time to just dream, beloved community; I am here to challenge you to act,” Michelle Cromwell, the SUNY Plattsburgh vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and the day’s keynote speaker, said.

"The idea of getting together is not just for us to come together and think about what we should do, it’s about coming together and acting.”

'WHAT REALLY COUNTS IS PEOPLE'

The Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration brought numerous North Country community groups and leaders together at the Blessed John XXIII College Community Newman Center.

Following a welcome that included an invocation by Pastor Chad Clardie of the Plattsburgh Nazarene Church and a rendition of the Afro-American national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” led by Andrea Ogle, master of ceremonies and Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Michael Cashman opened remarks.

He praised the community’s capacity for service, citing the more than 20 people who went to the annual soup kitchen cleaning at the Trinity Episcopal Church Monday morning as an example, while also challenging attendees to actually take the messages from the event forward to accomplish change before next year’s celebration.

“Time can be elusive, but what really counts is people,” Cashman said. “We will assemble here again, next year for certain, but what will we do in the meantime?”

'FAITH IN THE FUTURE'

Along with Cashman, City of Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville), Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblyman D. Billy Jones (D-Plattsburgh) all spoke of the honor of being there, and their pride in their communities that has grown every year they return to the Newman Center.

“I still have faith in the future, however dark the night and however dreary the day, I still believe that we shall overcome,” Little said, quoting King. “And through his leadership and words, we continue to work on overcoming.”

'DISRUPT THE BARRIERS'

During his speech, Jones also presented honorary citations from the State of New York to Ogle and Dexter Criss, recognizing their years of work providing music for the annual celebration with the Martin Luther King Jr. Singers.

In her address, Cromwell spoke largely on how we could all continue the fight for social justice that King started, saying that we all have roles in this “human rights revolution.”

She encouraged the crowd to figure out what their relevant skills are, organize with as many different kinds of people as they could and “disrupt the barriers that keep us from working together” with love.

“Even when disrupting, you have to disrupt with love,” Cromwell said.

“Don’t get caught in the cycle of dehumanization and the villainizing of people you don’t like.”

'WHAT DID YOU LEARN?'

The day was closed with a group singing of “We Shall Overcome,” led by speaker and Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir member Brett Carpenter, but, before that, Cashman left the crowd with one last challenge.

“Don’t walk away simply feeling good about the community, and having come here,” Cashman said. “Think, ‘What did you learn today?’”

Email Ben Watson:

bwatson@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @BenWatsonPR

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