In honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rochester Community Schools (RCS) and the Rochester Area Ministerial Association are partnering to put on a community celebration of King’s life Sunday at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Rochester.
King was a prominent civil rights activist and led nonviolent movements to end racial segregation. Traditionally, the celebration of King's life has taken place on the Sunday before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which is Jan. 16 this year; however, the groups decided to move the event this year to encourage greater participation.
“Martin Luther King Day always is a long weekend for the (school) district, and many people weren’t around," said Debra Hartman, RCS community relations manager. "This way, more people can attend.”
In years past, the event has drawn about 350 people to reflect on King’s dream. The event is free to the public, offers refreshments and is expected to run an hour long, beginning at 3:30 p.m. Numerous area ministers, including the Rev. Leonetta Bugleisi of Paint Creek Unitarian Universalist Church and the Rev. Stanley Ulman of St. Mary’s of the Hills, will share readings with the public. The keynote speaker for the event will be Robert Bruttell, who has been involved in religious studies at the University of Detroit Mercy.
“What’s really nice about this is that this used to be something that the district did pretty much on its own," Hartman said. "About three years ago, we approached the Rochester Area Ministerial Association and asked them to partner with us. It has been a very nice partnership and really brought a component of spirituality and expanded on the teachings of Dr. King.”
In addition to the variety of ministers presenting thoughtful literature to the celebration, RCS students will share their own opinions and talents. Stoney Creek High School’s drumline will perform, and students in Grades 3-5 from University Hills Elementary School will sing verses from “Light the Candles All Around the World.”
Inspirational videos created by two RCS students will be shown, and four essays by RCS students will be read at the event. Hartman explained that every year, students throughout the district write a "reflections" essay, and this year's theme is "Diversity Is." Hartman said a group of faculty members then select essays that tie in well with this event.
“I think it’s important to really acknowledge the rich diversity that we’re developing in this community,” Hartman said. “It’s always important to take a moment and reflect on the teachings of Dr. King and his impact on our lives. And it’s a good opportunity to bring the community together.”