For Carrboro community members and leaders, the opening of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Monday has been a long time coming.
The park opened a year after ground was broken on last year's Martin Luther King Day.
Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said in a speech during the opening that plans for a park on Hillsborough Road have been underway since 1999. She said the town decided to name the park after King in 2004.
The park’s opening featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony, food catered by 401 Main and speeches by community leaders and officials.
Anna Richards, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, said in a speech that King exemplified a true American hero.
“He’s not a hero for some of the community, he’s not my hero because I’m an African-American, he’s not the hero of women because he heralded women’s rights, he’s not the hero of the immigrant because he fought for their rights,” Richards said. “He’s not the hero of soldiers or those who would do war because he fought for peace. He is the hero of all of us.”
Richards said many citizens view the holiday as a day off of work or a day for volunteering, but she challenged park-goers to consider the holiday’s deeper meaning by thinking about what they can do to help the country live up to Dr. King's ideals.
"He is so much more than the 'I Have a Dream' speech," she said. "In fact, he was a radical."
Carrboro Town Council Member Barbara Foushee said she believes the park’s name reflects the mission of the town.
“As we move more towards diversity, inclusion, equity and in general, belonging, it is more than fitting to name this park after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Foushee said.
Lavelle said the town plans to have three young artists nominated by residents paint King’s quotes in the coming months. The town is accepting suggestions from residents until Jan. 26.
She encouraged residents to reflect holistically and honestly on the mission of the park's namesake as the construction chapter closes.
“I urge everyone here to study Dr. King’s speeches and writings with a really reflective ear and eye toward this Dr. King,” Lavelle said. “The one that’s front-and-center in the history books, the one that was more than the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, the one that called for an honest conversation about race relations and for radical change in our society.”
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