Friday, January 27, 2012

Remembering and honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

RECALLING A REVOLUTION: Gross, left, and Beckles

FOR AN ENTIRE NIGHT, Jacqueline Gross lay in a ditch, afraid of the state troopers waiting outside Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church in Gadsden, Ala. The year was 1964, and she had just heard Martin Luther King Jr. speak about the importance of change through nonviolence. While some members of the congregation were able to make it safely to their cars, others sought refuge on the side of the road where they waited in fear until the officers left at daybreak.

Now a food service manager at the MGH, Gross joined Patricia Beckles, RN, in sharing their memories of life during the civil rights movement as part of the “Tribute to the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” event held Jan. 13 in the East Garden Room. Beckles was the first African-American nurse to work in the MGH Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and has been employed at the hospital for 50 years.

Both speakers said they believe if King were alive, he would be pleased with the changes that have taken place in the United States since his famous “I Have a Dream” speech – including the election of a black president. They stressed, however, that King would recognize there is still much work to be done, especially in terms of disparities in health care and economic status. Violence in black communities and the high rate of school dropouts would also be of top concern to King, the pair said.

Education was a key theme during the session, as Beckles said one of the greatest triumphs she has seen in her lifetime was school integration. She told those in attendance that the Norman Rockwell painting depicting Ruby Bridges being escorted on her way to an all-white school amidst racial slurs “is just a picture now. I don’t have to think about that anymore.”

The event was sponsored by the Association of Multicultural Members of Partners and featured an opening prayer by Father Martin Okwir of the MGH Chaplaincy, songs by Fred Hawkins, Infection Control practitioner, and remarks by both Peter L. Slavin, MD, MGH president, and Jeff Davis, senior vice president of Human Resources.

Read more articles from the 1/27/12 Hotline issue.


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