As the state marked the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, along with other state and city officials, joined to declare that despite considerable progress, King’s dream has yet to be fully realized.
“As far as we’ve come, we still haven’t come far enough,” Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said during a ceremony at the state Capitol Monday. “We have so much to fight for, the injustices that we still are facing… We can talk about his life, but let’s start living his dream.”
Numerous speakers said that inequalities remain among certain populations in the caliber of health care available and access to a proper education, and must be solved.
“There are still many battles,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal told the audience. “This is our challenge today, to be a country… as good as Martin Luther King imagined we could be.”
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, formerly the state’s health care advocate, laid out some harsh figures on the racial disparities that exist still today in medical care, including a death rate for newborn black babies that is triple that of whites and a “vast disparity” in life expectancy.
“We have a profound responsibility… It is indeed a state of emergency when our babies are dying,” he said.
Speakers also noted disparities in education, including Connecticut having one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation between white and minority students.
“That is a basic civil rights issue for people of color here. We have to do better,” state Rep. Kelvin Roldan, D-Hartford, told an auditorium of 200 students at South Church in Hartford before they headed out for the day to volunteer at local shelters and food pantries to honor King.
Malloy told the South Church crowd one of the best ways to honor King’s message is by helping others.
King had “a lifelong commitment to lifting his fellow man up… making society more equal,” Malloy said. “Those are ideas we need to remain committed to even in a time… when some people are saying we need to roll back and not be as committed to lifting up those that are least among us.”
To mark the 25th year Connecticut has honored King with an official holiday, students from Simsbury High School created a short 15-minute video about how King got his first taste of life outside the segregated south while working in Connecticut on tobacco farms in Simsbury.
King’s visits to integrated supermarkets, movie theatres, restaurants and churches were liberating for the young King, just 15 years old during his last trip.
“After that summer in Connecticut, it was a bitter feeling going back to segregation,” he wrote in his autobiography.
Malloy said the video — which can be rented from public libraries across the state — is a “profound and wonderful way to remember the life of Dr. King.”
He then followed his remarks asking the audience to examine their lives and make sure they are giving back.