Change versus the status quo was the theme of the day at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at The University of New Mexico-Valencia campus this past Saturday.
Presented by UNM-Valencia and Rio Abajo Lodge #17, the 29th annual celebration welcomed guest speaker Rev. Donna Maria Davis, pastor of the Grant Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Albuquerque.
Davis began her passionate, free-flowing remarks by referencing Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, the 17th century French critic credited with coining the phrase, “The more things change, the more things stay the same.”
Most people don’t like change, Davis said, particularly change brought about by someone else.
“I don’t like your change. We know our own dysfunction,” Davis said. “Change doesn’t bother us unless it affects us. Do what you want in your own house, just don’t bring it outside and get it on my lawn.
“Change is fine so long as it doesn’t affect the status quo.”
Davis said when asked to explain his comment, Karr responded, “Turbulent changes do not affect reality on a deeper level, other than to cement the status quo.”
In order to change things, people have to be the change they’re looking for, she said, and not leave it to others.
“‘They’ ain’t bringing change. I’ve spent 25 years in the ministry and I have not met ‘they,’” the pastor said. “There is no ‘they.’”
Davis touched on the current federal government shutdown, forcing employees to continue working without pay and others to sit and wait for their jobs to restart.
“We got people on Capitol Hill playing childish games with adult lives because it doesn’t affect them,” she said. “The problem with our country is we ain’t got no compassion. We are no longer our brothers and sisters keepers.”
People aren’t concerned about the people in their community doing without, their neighbors suffering, so long as they have theirs, Davis said.
“It’s got to the point where we cross the street if there’s trouble on the other side. We don’t even call 911,” she said. “Compassion requires action and the ability to share in the lives of others. It’s not about doing good from a position of strength. It’s walking in somebody else’s shoes, to find out what they feel.”
“If we allow what’s been going on to keep on and we don’t stand up, we ain’t got no God in us,” she thundered. “If you go to bed with a full stomach and can’t sleep because you’re uncomfortable being so full and you know your neighbors, your brothers and sisters, go to bed hungry and you do nothing, there’s no God in you.”
It’s not enough to just remember King’s words and deeds, she said.
“I’m going to leave you with this charge. Don’t let another Martin Luther King holiday come and go and you have not positively effected somebody’s life,” Davis said. “God did not create you just for you. He created you to be the change you’re looking for. We don’t need another Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. if we all stand up.”
While the cold temperatures and the wind were present at the Belen Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Commission’s 26th annual Candlelight Vigil on Monday, dozens of people attended the event.
Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova thanked the crowd for coming out and celebrating Dr. King.
“We’re here to remember and recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the impact he’s had in America,” Cordova said. “What we see in this community, in our state and in our nation, we have a struggle — we have a struggle with culture, with diversity. We see it in the news and in those viral videos.”
Cordova said even in a small town such as Belen with a population of 7,200 people, we have an opportunity to stand as pillars of equality and represent the diversity of the country.
“We need to stand strong for all those good American values and characteristics that we have held true for generations,” he added. “In the 1950s and ’60s, there was a struggle in this country, and we made a heck of a lot of progress, thanks to Dr. King. So lets continue that progress. Lets continue to gather as we always do in this community and represent what’s best in America.”
During the hour-long ceremony, several local youth were recognized for their talents in the Belen Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Commission’s art and verbal contests.
In the K-fourth-grade art contest, Esther Spellmon won first place, Eligha Spellmon won second place, and Annabella Berniger won third place.
In the fifth-12th grade verbal and art contest, Dekoda Sparks won first, Tara Cederstrom came in second, and Maeve Cederstrom took third.
The event included live musical performances by Robert Noblin and Molly Chavez, and Chris Brennen and Glenn Benavidez, of Reviva, and the Belen High School Mariachis.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.