Press Room Headlines
ABC Kids Live King's Dream
New Canaan News~Review
By Kristiana Glavin
NEW CANAAN (January 18, 2007) The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream is lived at A Better Chance (ABC) house of New Canaan.
Eric Ho, one of the eight minority and disadvantaged students the ABC program brings to town each year, spoke about the 1950s and 1960s civil rights leader at a service celebrating the King's life Monday morning at the United Methodist Church.
Ho and the students who live together at ABC house and attend New Canaan High School bring more diversity to a predominately white and high-income town - 90 percent of the roughly 20,000 residents are white, according to the town's 2005 census.
"What does an Asian kid have to say about Dr. King?" Ho said. "Nothing can be said that hasn't been said before. But I have a voice of my own to share and the privilege to reminisce about Dr. King with you (the audience) today."
He said his opportunity to go through the ABC program would not have been possible without the civil rights movement and King's work to leave the world a better place than he found it. Ho referenced King's famous speech where the civil rights activist said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
Ho said he has felt like part of the community during his four-year tenure at ABC of New Canaan
"If we're all to open our minds together, who knows how far we'd go in reaching our dreams. We are creatures of habit. Unless we break out of our daily routines...we'll never be able to accept change," he said. "Why do blacks live in Harlem, Chinese in Chinatown and Italians in Little Italy? There's a saying that says you're never supposed to mix apples and oranges, but if you do mix fruits together, I know you get a pretty good fruit salad."
The service drew a mix of races and religions as families, youths, adults and seniors filled the church to listen to the speakers and music from grassroots choir Serendipity Chorale and the Community Baptist Church youth choir. The main theme of the service centered on "fulfilling the dream."
The Rev. Dr. Edwin Jones, pastor of the United Methodist Church, began the service with his own words of encouragement.
"Do more than dream dreams," he said. "We must do whatever we can to implement things big and small."
Dr. Kareem Adeeb, representing the Islamic community, spoke about the need for change that persists in the world. Adeeb said leaders in the world must break down walls of ignorance, hate and injustice and replace them with bridges of hope, love and justice.
"We must recognize justice is at the root of peace," he said, alluding to King's letter from Birmingham, Ala., jail in April 1963.
Rep. John Hetherington (R-125) followed, saying that it is fitting for government to play a role in the day's celebration and remembrance of King.
"As he changed the hearts of people, it changed the government," Hetherington said, adding that King helped move the government to deal with injustice. "He made us understand what we should do. He brought from within us the best of us."
Showing that King's message persisted after he was assassinated in 1968, keynote speaker Dr. Cynthia Barnett shared her story of how she fulfilled her ambitions. The West Indies native moved to New York City at age 19 in pursuit of her dream to get the best education she could despite any obstacle.
"I think I was always led by the spirit of God," Barnett said, who is now an educator, author and life coach.
Poverty was her first obstacle. Barnett's mother, to create a better life for her four children, moved to the United States to work as a dressmaker. Barnett and her siblings remained in St. Vincent's with their grandmother. When Barnett arrived in the United States years later, her mother was struggling financially and could not afford to send her to college. Barnett found a way to work around those economic troubles, first studying music, and then when the music school closed and was absorbed by New York University, changing her major and studying elementary education.
Barnett went onto earn a master's degree from Columbia University on a Martin Luther King, Jr. scholarship. During her course of study, she also married and gave birth to two daughters. Barnett said she remembers being eight-months pregnant and still riding the bus to campus to attend class. She gave birth to her second daughter shortly after graduating.
"It was my dream and I wasn't going to stop going to school," Barnett said.
After graduation, she went from student to teacher. The family moved to Norwalk and Barnett began her career in the city's school system. Several years later, she was a divorced mother of three and decided to return to school. She enrolled at the University of Bridgeport and studied guidance counseling.
A later interview for a guidance counselor position in the Norwalk school system prompted her to continue for her doctorate in educational administration at Columbia University.
Another job interview after graduation prompted her to a new course of action: discrimination lawsuit. Barnett said a white man with less experienced was hired over her for the vice principal position at Brien McMahon High School. She hired a lawyer, went to court and a few weeks later she got the job. Barnett said people were surprised she did this because she is a quiet woman.
"This opened doors for others to stand up and say 'this is not right,'" she said of the lawsuit.
The tense environment she came into at the school led her to take more courses. These focused on life and personal growth instead of academia. Barnett said she attended classes based on motivational books like Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and Steven Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." It helped her with her job and coworkers over the next 10 years and helped bring her to her next career: a life coach.
"I help people to live the kind of life that's going to make them happier. Happiness is a byproduct of how we live our life. I love it and this is my mission in life," Barnett said. "I hope today that each one of you will fulfill your dream."
Through that, she said, King's dream will also be realized.
For Anné DuBose, who attended the service, Barnett served as a major encouragement.
"It was inspirational to see such a mild-mannered woman exhibit such strength," DuBose said, adding she thought the entire service was uplifting and hopeful. "I hope we can take the same fellowship of oneness here and take it out into the world."
DuBose said she came to the service to support its message and the children in the Community Baptist Church youth choir, where she is a member. Her brother the Rev. Kenneth DuBose serves as the church's pastor. Anné DuBose said this is the third service for King she has attended.
"I also come and see the collection of humanity, the rainbow that's here," she said.
© 2007 New Canaan News~Review
A Better Chance
253 West 35th Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10001
Phone (646) 346-1310, Fax (646) 346-1311