An annual ecumenical service on Sunday recognized the 2011 recipients of scholarships administered by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Trust Fund. A new scholarship funded through the mayor’s office will be administered by the trust in the coming years.
The service, held at , was the 28th one recognizing African-American students in New London County who embody King’s teachings. Students receiving the scholarship will get $5,000 a year for the four years they attend college.
Receiving the award this year were:
- Jacqueline Cardoza, of Norwich Free Academy
- Khaleed Fields, of the
- Robert Martin, of Norwich Free Academy
- Kieron Smith, of Fitch High School
- Christina Watts, of East Lyme High School
Smith noted the connection of King’s teachings with religious messages, and read two Bible passages encouraging people to love and forgive their enemies. He said he felt these qualities are lacking in the modern world.
“We should all strive to follow Martin Luther King’s example, to forgive our enemies and love them as well,” said Smith.
Mayor Daryl Finizio was the keynote speaker at the event, and announced the formation of scholarship that will be funded chiefly by his personal salary and administered by the trust. Finizio said five percent of his salary, or , and supplemental donations will fund a $5,000 scholarship for a student, to be given out by the trust in their annual October selection of scholarship recipients. The scholarship will be awarded while he is mayor, and he said he hopes his successor or the trust will keep it going after he leaves office.
Finizio said the first mission in civil rights movements is removing legal obstacles. He said King’s dream went behind legal equality, however, in promoting a world where people would be judged based on their character.
Finizio said he became involved in anti-discrimination movements due to restrictions placed on homosexuals. He said one law in Rhode Island, where Finizio formerly lived, made his lifestyle punishable as an “abominable and detestable crime against nature.” The law was repealed in 1998.
“This has not been an easy path,” Finizio said. “All along it, people were quick to tell me what could not be done.”
Despite the skepticism, Finizio said, there have been several advances toward equality. He said he successfully ran for office as an openly gay candidate, is legally married, and can serve in the military—all ideas that would have seemed outlandish 20 years ago.
Finizio said such achievements are the result of years of hard work by numerous people. He said people involved in anti-discrimination movements did everything from staging protests to encouraging youth about their future.