The Confederation Room in Parliament Hill’s West Block was filled with big, beautiful singing voices, wise words, and spiritual inspiration at the celebration of Martin Luther King Day held last Monday.
The evening honoured the legendary civil rights leader but everyone’s thoughts were also on Haiti’s devastating earthquake.
“This is like my Sept. 11th,” spoken word artist Oni the Haitian Sensation, who is of Haitian heritage, told the room after her impassioned performance imploring the public to do its part.
“Martin Luther King says that in the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
The evening was organized by a volunteer coalition with support from Toronto MP Yasmin Ratansi and KGM Enterprises. The crowd celebrated and paid tribute to Ugandan-born Senator Mobina Jaffer and to Algonquin Elder William Commanda, 96, who once conducted a sacred pipe ceremony where King had been shot in Memphis.
Rev. Darryl Gray of Montreal and Ottawa’s Sarah Onyango co-hosted the ceremony. Former MP David Kilgour, Holocaust survivor Truda Rosenberg and MPP Yasir Naqvi were among the attendees. Also present were organizers Vanessa Modeste-Doherty and Daniel Stringer, the latter of whom spoke about forming the Canadian MLK Day Coalition about six years ago, despite being “an Irish guy who can’t even dance a jig, but could at least get some of his black friends together to celebrate Martin Luther King Day.”