By Qian Douglas Yu – January 21, 2013  IMG_20130121_182048

“I’m proud to be black and free!” exclaimed Elijah Jeffers. He is an 11-year-old social justice activist from Nativity Preparatory School in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.  He was watching President Obama’s inauguration today with over 100 Boston residents at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

The RoxVote Coalition sponsored the event, which celebrated both the President and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr on this national King holiday.

“If it wasn’t for Dr. King, there wouldn’t be President Obama.” Jeffers said, “I’m really inspired by him…He wouldn’t shout at people. He wouldn’t throw his fist at people. He used his words instead of violence to fight for social justice. I think that’s beautiful.”

When the audience applauded and cheered Jeffers, he was encouraged to get sit on the stage with two panelists who had marched with Dr. King in their early twenties.

One of the panelists was 75-year-old Tom Cornu. He is from Omaha, Nebraska and he used to march with Dr. King in Boston when he first moved here in the 1960s.

Cornu’s voice trembled while he cried and said, “We fought for an obvious fact…When Dr. King approached me, I just felt he is like anybody else. He is an ordinary man.”

State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz said Cornu was talking about taking up the work that has been left undone and Dr. King’s memory is urging us to take up.

Chang-Diaz chose the King quote “When you pray, move your feet” to capture Dr. King’s spirit.

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Poet VCR is from Dorchester, a Boston neighborhood. He was more cautious when he said “I feel joyful on the surface about [Obama’s] inauguration…However, he is just a politician. It really doesn’t mean building or making change to our community at all…Whoever is in office, they should be responsible for our community.”

VCR said that he believed Dr. King has more influence on social change than President Obama because he really bound people together to make a difference. Additionally, he suggested that people should get rid of their hatred and should develop a mentality that we like each other.

The other panelist Dan Richardson also marched with Dr. King.  He said, “[Obama’s inauguration] presents to the world that people of color are worth a good deal and we should be pleased to be who we are.”

“I’m happy that President Obama was re-elected and I think Dr. King is amazing,” Jeffers said. “He set up a role model and laid down the path for equality.”

The RoxVote Coalition is a non-partisan organization dedicated at educating, engaging and empowering residents in Roxbury through civic activities.