Photo: State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry.
While many national political figures have decided to ride the popular wave of refusing to assist the refugees from a chaotic world, State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry will not stand silent.
“When Dr. King said the measure of a man is not where he stands in a moment of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenges and controversy,” she told a full house during her keynote speech at the 22nd annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast held on Monday, Jan. 18 in the Belmont High School cafeteria.
We face these choices every day, said Forry.
“It is the choice of an elected official to remind us that this country welcomes all people, especially those who seek refuge in a time of war or terror because it is the right thing to do,” she said to the applause of those in attendance at the yearly event which serves as a fundraiser for the METCO Support Fund which provides services to those students who travel from Boston to attend Belmont schools.
“We have work to do,” declared Forry, as she spoke of the lasting legacy of King and how his life continues to influence the pursuit of civil rights in today’s America.
Forry told the crowd King knew that equality could not be won through violence but by boycotts, marches, and peaceful demonstrations.
“But today we see both,” she said, pointing to events in Baltimore and Fergeson, Missouri, where violent actions “have overshadowed, but no silence the peaceful calls for change from demonstrators from across our country.”
Follen spoke about her upbringing in a Haitian household and recognize the struggle of both an African-American and first-generation immigrant family, and how through hard work she would be speaking Monday as the state senator from the First Suffolk District.
“Only in this country could this happen,” she said.
She spoke of falling in love and marrying an Irish Bostonian (Bill Forry, editor and publisher of the Dorchester Reporter, Boston Irish Reporter and Boston Haitian Reporter), of raising four children in a multicultural household in their Dorchester home.
Forry said it was ten years ago that she ran and won a state House seat from Boston, serving for eight-and-a-half years a district that encompassed urban neighborhoods and suburbs including Milton where she worked with Belmont’s current school district superintendent John Phelan.
During that time she sought to bring urban and suburban leaders to the table “although we think there is nothing in common, there is always common ground.”
In 2013, she won the election to succeed Tom Finnerian whose state senate seat includes South Boston, the bastion of opposition to racial desegregation in the 1970s and 1980s.
One of her first challenges was that, as South Boston’s state senator, she would host the long-standing St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, a political roast that was until 2014 the bastion of Irish-American men. Soon after winning the seat, Boston City Council President Bill Linehan and some press outlets said only a South Boston native should host the event.
“But the thing those guys didn’t know realize is that I’m the real ‘Black Irish,’” Forry said. And while the incident was hurtful, she had her champions including the former state senators William “Billy” Bulger and current US Rep. Stephen Lynch, who spoke up and declared that “Of course she’s going to host it.”
“I saw the best of my friends and supporters during that period. They did not stand silent. They stood with me and … that they would be there for me,” she recalled.
Forry said moments like that when she feels like lashing out, “I remember Dr. King’s words. ‘Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend’.”
“We have an opportunity in these times of challenges and controversy to work to realize King’s dream. As a nation, we have already come far, but there is so much more we can do,” she said, including advocating for diverse education, supporting growth in local businesses to lift families out of poverty along with creating jobs and combat income inequality.
“We have work to do,” she said.