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Justice the Cornerstone of King's Legacy

January 17, 2012

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Connecticut's biggest celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., has taken place at Yale University's Peabody Museum of Natural History, where 4,000 adults and kids from around the state passed through the doors on Sunday and Monday. This was the sixteenth such annual celebration of King's legacy of environmental and social justice.

At one table, children were asked to draw and write about how people could settle their differences without fighting. Volunteer Pamela Mouzon says adults could benefit from some of the answers.

"Don't argue - communicate." "Love is the answer, because at the end, we are part of each other."

This year, in addition to a justice-themed poetry slam that brings poets from around the Northeast, two films of King's speeches were shown, along with his famous quotes posted throughout the museum.

One of the performers was Lyvonne Proverbs Briggs, who is also a minister. She focused on women and justice.

"I stand in solidarity for and with women, from Brazil to Ghana and Cambodian nations, those struggling to hold onto their souls' incantations, surviving on modern-day plantations in America, where a mother gets jailed just for trying to send her kids to a decent school."

That last line is a reference to a mother in Bridgeport who enrolled her kindergartner in a Norwalk school. Poets who participate in the slam earn points for incorporating social justice themes into their work.

The crowd seemed to be having a good time, although some wondered how much the event related to the man being honored. David Heiser, head of education at the Peabody, says organizers have responded to that feedback.

"We've really been working hard to add elements each year that really have a lot more to do with Martin Luther King, while at the same time maintaining the sort of mission-oriented part of this event, which is really around environmental justice."

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT