Ridgefield celebrates spirit of Dr. King

“You can’t celebrate Dr. King without getting the spirit,” said Kimberly Wilson before beginning her rendition of America the Beautiful on stage at the Ridgefield Playhouse.

She was commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the town’s annual celebration Monday with an audience of about 300 people.

This year the program included performances from the Ridgefield and Serendipity chorales, Keys students Carolyn Smith and Daniela Gonzalez, as well as Broadway’s Daniel Levine and Bryan Perri.

Keys is a program to bring music to underprivileged youth.

Celebration founder Mark Robinson said the event has always been free of politics in an effort to unify and honor Dr. King’s preachings, but this year was different.

Robinson said he felt it was necessary to address the presidential election.

“You cannot say you share Dr. King’s dream but you want to build a wall to keep out refugees fleeing violence and oppression,” he said.

“And when you say it’s time to make America great again, what you’re saying is it’s time to start caring about us and stop caring about everyone else. When you say ‘us,’ do you mean all of us or just some of us?”

Spirit of Dr. King

For the first time, two “Spirit of Dr. King” Awards were given.

One was for the late Tom Belote, whom Robinson described as a “Ridgefielder to his very core.”

Belote’s award was accepted by his wife, Jane, and his cousin Mike Martin.

“Tom learned what it is to be a citizen and what civil discourse is,” said Martin. “And he lived it all his life.”

The other was for Daniela Sikora, director of the Ridgefield Chorale and founder of the Being Human Being Kind Initiative. With blue ribbons hanging from trees around Ridgefield, Sikora has set out to campaign against bullying.

“The ribbons around the trees epitomize what Dr. King hoped for — bringing respect and understanding and to help eliminate bullying,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

The Rev. Chuck Bonadies from the Ridgefield Baptist Church led the event’s invocation. “Isn’t our gathering today not a reminder that love and justice still bring people together?” he said.

The benediction was given by the Rev. Charles Hambrick-Stowe from the First Congregational Church.

He quoted Dr. King: “We tolerated hate, we tolerated the sick stimulation of violence. And we tolerated the differential application of law which said that a man’s life was sacred if only we agreed with his views.”

He said those words still apply to the present day and that it is important to volunteer in fighting against hate and violence.

The event concluded with an uplifting mash-up of “Brave” and “True Colors” performed by the Ridgefield Chorale.