On Friday, January 16th, Kica Matos, Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change, delivered the keynote address at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum’s 30th Annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration. The event took place at the Smithsonian’s American Indian Museum in Washington, D.C.
The crowd of about 300 people was treated to an evening of performances and tributes by some of the District’s most talented young people including the Children’s Gospel Choir from the Washington Center for Performing Arts, the Alfred Kiger Savoy Players, the D.C. Youth Ensemble and a dance medley from the 2014 D.C. After-School Latin Program Winners.
Ms. Matos framed her comments within the context of the theme for the event—“Beloved Community”— focusing specifically on Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s fight for racial and economic justice and his solidarity with the poor people of America. As Ms. Matos delivered her remarks, she was careful to link the current day struggle for immigrant rights to the historical movement for civil rights in the 1950’s and 1960’s. She offered words of encouragement and challenge to the audience, illustrating how the momentum and the energy of the civil rights movement are alive and well with us today as new movements for justice continue to spark and catch fire around the country.
Following the keynote, Kica sat down at center stage for a one-on-one conversation with Claudine Brown, Undersecretary for Education and Access at the Smithsonian. During this part of the program, Ms. Brown posed her own questions and fielded questions from the audience that invited Ms. Matos to draw on her own compelling experiences and stories as an attorney and community organizer in support of communities fighting for justice and freedom.
An especially poignant moment came as an audience member challenged the idea that the civil rights movement led by Dr. King could be so closely equated to today’s struggle for immigrant rights. Ms. Matos responded directly and gracefully, saying that today’s immigrant rights movement has taken many of its most important lessons and cues from the civil rights movement and that both grew out of a response to racial prejudice and economic exploitation felt by people of color in America. She closed her comments with a quote from Dr. King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Many thanks to the folks at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum for convening such a wonderful event! We look forward to exploring ways to deepen our partnership with you.