Torrington Band Honors Martin Luther King Jr. With Online Forum

TORRINGTON — The words of Martin Luther King Jr.’s August 1963 speech, “I Have a Dream,” were heard and repeated Monday by Our Culture Is Beautiful, a culture and awareness group in Torrington during a celebration on Zoom Monday.

“One hundred years later, after the Emancipation Proclamation, the Negro is still not free…He is held back by the chains of discrimination….the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty…( But) I have a dream that one day this nation will rise…” they quoted King.

OCIB founders Angaza and Effie Mwando asked their guests to think about how to connect more with diversity and non-violence. Speakers were DeLois Lindsey, retired professor from the University of Hartford; Reggie Chavis Jr., Security Officer Operations Manager at Yale University; Sheek Lorael, a social worker pursuing a degree in nursing; and Carolyn Burton, a close friend of the Mwandos. Each speaker answered a question, giving them time to answer questions from the audience.

Lindsey was asked how she initiated discussions about black history and race with groups of people.

“I find it’s better to listen than talk,” she said. “The first thing I’ve found that helps is creating a safe space to talk about it and making sure people know it’s a safe and trustworthy environment, even on Zoom.


“Be aware of your body language, because it’s not what you say, it’s what you convey,” Lindsey said, adding that she encourages people to “ask the question you’ve always wanted to ask. “.

Chavis was asked how he navigates working in an administrative role. He said he was the first black man to hold the post at Yale University in the department’s history. “It’s hard when all eyes are on you and some are waiting for you to fail,” he said. “How you articulate yourself will be part of your success.”

Lorael was asked how she stays non-judgmental and helps others do the same. She said she was a person of mixed background and growing up in the 1980s felt she didn’t fit in anywhere.

“Back then, it wasn’t as common for women to be open about mixed race,” she said. “So I learned what it meant to come from a mixed background…I was too light skinned for black people, I wasn’t Puerto Rican. I didn’t fit in anywhere.”

Today, she is pursuing nursing education and has worked at many levels of health care, including nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, and teaching hospital systems. “Anyway, what people share in common is what they’re going through in that moment,” she said.

“Moving from judgment to acceptance and non-judgment comes from understanding,” she said.

Burton was asked about ending domestic and physical violence, which most often occurs against women and children. The best solution, she said, is to bring it out into the open.

“We need to start feeling free to talk about it,” she said. “It’s an unpleasant subject (and) ending the silence is not an easy task, because of the risks it entails. But it has a critical impact on families and the mental health of children…It should be exposed and treated immediately in a private and safe manner.

“Dr. King lost his life at a young age, fighting to end the violence, and it’s sad that so many of us are still doing nothing about it,” she said.

The Angazas encouraged their guests to continue to celebrate diversity and fight for change.

“I’m a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, and I love telling stories about history and life, and encouraging people to face life’s challenges and talk about change. “said Effie Mwando.

“As I continue to work to bring programs to communities and schools, bringing teams of people together around social issues, I say how important it is to know our history, so that we are better able to know who we are and what we are,” said Angaza Mwando.

As a young man, Mwnado worked with Stokely Charmichael, an activist in the Black Panther Movement, which was not always peaceful. “I am here today and grateful to understand that we must work in peace and harmony with each other,” he said. “But in 1964 when Dr. King spoke in Washington, DC, even though there were different controversial leaders there, they were able to work together.

“We have to do it too,” he said. “We have to say ‘Yes, teamwork makes the dream work.’ We have to keep working together.”

Learn more about Our Culture Is Beautiful and upcoming Black History Month programs at https://ocib.net/ or on Facebook.

Jennifer C. Burleigh