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Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Somerville Voices on King's Legacy

Mayor Katjana Ballantyne

Today as we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it’s important to remember that reflecting on his legacy and quoting his powerful words is not enough.

Members of the King family have asked that rather than celebrate MLK Day we take inspiration from Dr. King and put in the work to build a more just, equitable society. In particular, they have asked Americans to stand up for voting rights. In a statement, Martin Luther King III said, “MLK Day has always been a day on, not off. When we call for ‘no celebration without legislation,’ we’re not urging Americans not to honor this day - we’re asking people to honor Dr. King through action to protect the right to vote.”

Protecting the right to vote is essential to the survival of our democracy. And voting rights are a clear example of how systemic oppression works. Although all U.S. citizens 18 and older are allowed to vote, laws that throw up barriers to registering or accessing the ballot box; denying those convicted of felonies the right to vote, and gerrymandered voting districts designed to assure certain outcomes chip away at those rights. And, generally, these laws most affect communities that are already marginalized. Recent efforts to create conditions that could allow election officials and legislators to overturn lawful election outcomes have also expanded this threat to all voters and our electoral process.  

This MLK Day, I ask you to join with me in urging our representatives in Washington to support laws that protect voting rights for all. I also ask you to double down on our community’s commitment to doing the work of dismantling systemic racism and other forms of oppression here in Somerville.

Our Racial and Social Justice Department just put out two calls for community members to get involved in the City’s reimagining policing initiative and in getting youth involved in our racial and social justice work. If you are interested in taking on this work, please apply. We need a wide range of voices and experiences to tackle these big issues.

I know Somerville shares Dr. King’s hope that one day we will live in a society where people are judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. But having shared values is just the beginning. It’s up to each of us to take on the work of building a community where we can all thrive and prosper.

―Mayor Katjana Ballantyne

Ms. Murphy's Class

Students of Ms. Murphy, a Winter Hill Community Innovation School ESL teacher, reflect on the teachings of MLK and how it relates to their lives.

Minister Savina Martin

Dr. Savina Martin, TriChair Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign speaks about Martin Luther King Jr. and the day that honors him.

Somerville Youth: A Look Back to 2021

In 2021, a few students of Somerville schools shared their perspectives on MLK.

CR Spicer, Somerville Human Rights Commission Member

To say “I believe in human rights” means that there is someplace that surrounds me, embracing me everywhere, a common ground of rights, some common society that knows my own city better than I do myself, deep down in its streets, where not even my family can find me, some common society that knows the secret of all signs and ordinances and where all roads lead. I am not alone in this commonwealth with all my questions for which no one offers me a satisfactory answer. That commonwealth is with me, and exists for me, and I exist for that Commonwealth and in that Common society’s presence. Believing in human rights means saying: there exists an ultimate city, an ultimate neighborhood, an infinite block, in which I can take refuge and finally have peace in the serenity of mutual aid. If that is so, believing in human rights is worthwhile; it makes us more ourselves and empowers our humanity.

―CR Spicer


How You Can Support Voting Rights & Action on Racial and Social Justice


The RSJ Department is seeking up to 14 community members to be Reimagining Policing Community Ambassadors who will help with community outreach around the City’s reimagining policing initiative to help advance the City’s commitment to eliminating institutional and structural racism. Ambassadors will help with designing community outreach plans, surveying residents, coordinating public meetings, and distributing information about upcoming meetings and engagement opportunities. 

Applicants must be residents of Somerville, work in Somerville, or own a business in Somerville. Ideal candidates will be invested in reimagining policing and social justice in Somerville, have an interest in community organizing, have knowledge of or interest in learning community engagement best practices, and should represent the diversity of Somerville.

Ambassadors will meet monthly for up to 12 months and members will also be expected to attend subcommittee meetings and to perform some work between scheduled meetings.

Interested applicants should submit brief answers to the questions below by 4 p.m. on Friday, February 4, to the RSJ Department by emailing or by delivering or mailing them to Somerville City Hall, Attn: RSJ Department, 93 Highland Avenue, Somerville, MA 02143. Please contact with any questions.

  • Why is it important for you to participate in the Reimagining Policing Community Engagement Ambassadorship?
  • What is your understanding of community engagement?
  • Please explain which of the eligibility criteria above you meet and how.
  • Do you have any additional experiences that you think will add a new perspective to the Ambassadorship? 
  • What is your understanding of reimagining policing?

The RSJ Department is also seeking up to 14 members for the Youth Racial and Social Justice League, which will advise the RSJ Department on the formation of a Racial and Social Justice Youth Cabinet. Members must be between the ages of 16 and 20, live or go to school in Somerville, have parent or guardian consent if they are under 18, and collectively represent the diversity of the city.

The Justice League will meet every other week for up to a year to develop a set of recommendations for the establishment of the RSJ Youth Cabinet.

Interested applicants can apply in one of several ways:

Applications must be received by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, February 26, For any questions, please contact Paola Bernal at 832-798-4559.


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