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Annual Martin Luther King Jr. reading takes place in City Hall Plaza

Boston MLK Public Reading
A volunteer reads Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” at the Boston MLK Public Reading this past Tuesday. The event in City Hall Plaza had 204 pre-registered readers this year, although more volunteered when the event began. ALYSA SULEIMAN/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

The New Democracy Coalition held its sixth annual Boston Martin Luther King Jr. public reading on May 2 at City Hall Plaza.

Despite the rain, hundreds of Massachusetts residents gathered to help read a speech by Dr. King Jr. The readers waited in line to approach a podium, where they would read a small section and then rejoin the audience that observed.

Delores Christopher, NDC member and co-chair of the event, said the event is intended to bring people together.

“Over the past years, we’ve tried to gather as many people, of all ages, of all organizations, to come together to read one of his speeches,” Christopher said. “We look forward to gathering as many people from around the neighborhood, or from Massachusetts in general, to come together … to hear each other’s thoughts.”

This year, the participants read “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” In the speech, King argues that increasing militarism, escalating poverty and racism will destroy the nation. In previous years, “Letter from Birmingham Jail” had been read.

“It’s important that the issues that [King] was talking about continue to be raised because we haven’t solved them,” Newton resident Doris Tennant said. “It sounds all too familiar.”

Latonya Patten, an administrative assistant to the founder of NDC, said this year’s speech was purposefully topical, given the wars happening around the world.

“That was why that particular letter was chosen now, with [war in] Ukraine, as well as over in Jerusalem,” Patten said. “There’s so many different people fighting. There’s no peace.”

Patten said after the first reading, more people began to take part in the reading. A diverse group ended up at the event, including politicians, religious leaders from various faiths and elementary school children.

“It’s just a time for us to get together to celebrate one another, as well as to be unified,” Patten said.

Many organizations were also in attendance, including the Coalition for Anti-Racism and Equity, hoping to help with the event and spread their own causes.

Though 204 readers registered for the event ahead of time, anyone was welcome to participate.

“There are still a lot of people here, so it’s good energy,” Tennant said. “It’s important to remember these things.”

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