The annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Roxbury church where he once ministered took on added significance this year against the backdrop of racial reckoning in America and with the city poised to seat its first-ever Black and woman mayor.
“Anytime I have opportunity to expound upon and celebrate the amazing words and deeds of Dr. King I am grateful, but especially this year in the wake of violence and treason which has rocked our country and reminded us just how fragile our nation and democracy are,” U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley said in a video message accepting the church’s leadership award.
“If these attacks and atrocities of the last four years — including those that occurred this past Wednesday — have shown us anything, it is the critical importance of speaking truth to power,” Pressley said.
Twelfth Baptist Church Rev. Willie Bodrick II likened the racial conflicts that spilled into the streets throughout the spring and summer to the revolution led by King.
“We lift up the name of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many others who lost their lives senselessly. We went out to march. We went out to fight. We went out to speak up, but it takes not only marching and speaking up. It takes advocates, it takes people in office putting up policy … we’re in this fight together,” Bodrick said.
City Council President Kim Janey is poised to become mayor when Mayor Martin Walsh takes on the role of Labor secretary in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. She will be the first woman and the first Black person to hold the corner office.
“Stepping into this role, I know how important an equitable economic recovery is to our city. This is how we begin to close the wealth gap in Boston and how we live out Dr. King’s legacy,” Janey said.
Delivering her keynote address, Attorney General Maura Healey recounted a Confederate flag waving through the halls of Congress and other “bone-chilling,” “appalling, hate-filled violent taunts” that played out during last week’s insurrection at the Capitol.
“I know how that must have looked,” Healey said, saying racial equity is the “No. 1 priority” for the attorney general’s office.
Sunday’s service was an annual celebration at the Twelfth Baptist Church. Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be observed across the country next Monday, Jan. 18.