A community comes together to celebrate on MLK Day in Westborough

Ken E. Nwadike Jr., aka “the Free Hugs Guy” does what he does best with event attendees.
Photo/courtesy Westborough Connects

The following is an excerpt from an article posted in the  Community Advocate in Feb 2019: 

“ Westborough – On Jan. 21, Connections in Faith, the Westborough Interfaith Association, the Westborough Public Schools, and Westborough Connects co-hosted the first annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration. The event was grant-funded by the Lilly Endowment along with Islamic Relief. It attracted community members of all ages to reflect and remember the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The day started with words of welcome by Rev. Jeffrey P. Goodrich of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, and State. Rep.  Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston).  Dykema shared a quote from Dr. King’s book “Strength to Love,” in which he says, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

After the words of welcome, the attendees joined together in a song, “Come and Greet the Day”, written and led by Luanne Crosby of Westborough. Amber Bock, the Westborough Public Schools Superintendent read an excerpt from Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail”.

Following the reading from Dr. King’s letter, the winners of the essay contest were invited to read their work. The winners were Sanjana Pulapathi of Sarah W. Gibbons Middle School, Harneet Kaur of Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, and Lexy Ladas and Priyanka Deka of Westborough High School. (Read their essays below.)

Rev. Daniel Gregoire of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Grafton and Upton then shared an excerpt from the commencement address that Dr. King delivered at Lincoln University.

The keynote address was given by peace activist and motivational speaker Ken E. Nwadike Jr., who is popularly known as the “Free Hugs Guy”. Nwadike spoke about his previous homelessness, and how he overcame the challenges he faced in high school. He also discussed his charitable organization, The Free Hugs Project. Finally, Nwadike discussed the power of a hug, and how this was manifested when he attended the 2014 Boston Marathon to spread love and encourage runners with “free hugs”.

Participants in the celebration transitioned from the auditorium to the cafeteria at Westborough High School, where they embarked on a community art project and roundtable discussions which reflected upon Dr. King’s message. There was also a community “storytime” activity for the youngest participants, where books curated specifically for this event by the Westborough Public Library were read aloud.

Attendees went home enriched and inspired after connecting with other community members and discussing Dr. King’s message as a group.

Essay Prompt:
“Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about things that matter.”

-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech on March 8th, 1965 in Selma, Alabama

You do not need to answer each question below.  Instead, they are provided as possibilities to help guide your thoughts and your writing.  You are also welcome to respond with your own interpretation of the quote.

  • What thoughts come to your mind when you read this quote?
  • Does this quote make you think of a specific time or event in your life? Explain?
  • Have you been “silent about things that matter” before?  What prevented you from speaking up?
  • Does this quote apply to your approach toward life at all? If so, how?”


Read the full post on  Community Advocate

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