Hartford Community Leaders Rally on MLK Day to Announce "Community Bill of Rights"

On March 31, 1968, four days before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to the nation at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and called upon America to dedicate itself to the struggle against poverty. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of then-President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of the “war on poverty,” but Hartford has actually fallen behind in many areas measuring progress.
 
For instance, the unemployment rate in Hartford today is 13.1%, which is more than twice the unemployment rate in 1964. Median household income in Hartford is just $28,391, which is more than $18,600.00 below the median of 1964, adjusted for inflation.
 
Reverend A.J. Johnson, of the Urban Hope Refuge Church, who delivered the invocation at the press conference said, "today, we honor Dr. King, and the inspiring work that he did, by making a commitment to righting societal wrongs."
 
"We, the parents and grandparents of the students in our schools, know what’s best for our children and grandchildren," said Hesterina "Mille" Soto, Parent Chair of the Clark School Governance Council. "We believe that decisions impacting our students and our community's schools must be made with meaningful input from parents as full partners."
 
"We believe that mass incarceration is shattering our communities," said Kennard Ray, Political and Legislative Director of Connecticut Working Families. "That is why we are committed to ensuring that Hartford's 'Ban the Box' law actually protects ex-offenders from discrimination in hiring."
 
Other speakers at the press conference included Lakeisha McFarland, President of the Clark School Parent-Teacher Organization, Robert Harrison, Clark School alumni; Rev. Maurice Porter of the Shiloh Baptist Church; Shonta Browdy of the CT State Board of Education’s Family and Community Engagement Task Force; Shellye Davis and Jackeline Aviles of the Hartford Federation of Paraprofessionals. 
 
Several local and state elected officials attended the event, including Hartford Board of Education member Craig Stallings, City Council Minority Leader Larry Deutsch, and State Representatives Edwin Vargas and Brandon McGee, both of Hartford 
 
Following the press conference, a community choir performed "We Shall Overcome" in honor of Dr. King. Video with highlights of yesterday's event can be viewed online at a new website launched today, HartfordRising.org.