Over 300 members of the Indianapolis community came together at the Kennedy King Park today, for our annual celebration of the remarkable speech Robert Kennedy gave 49 years ago, announcing the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. This story is captured in the PBS documentary, Ripple of Hope (highly recommended).
That day, and that speech, were remarkable for many reasons. In those days before the Internet and instant news, most of those in the crowd that had gathered to hear Senator Kennedy speak as part of his Presidential campaign, were not aware that King had been killed. The Park was located in a predominately Black neighborhood in downtown Indianapolis. The Indianapolis police told Kennedy they feared for his safety, and didn’t want him to go, but he insisted.
In 1968 the county was being torn apart by the Vietnam War and racism. Martin Luther King was nearly universally criticized when he gave a speech strongly condemning the Vietnam War. He saw the issues of injustice, oppression and immorality in both struggles.
Robert Kennedy recognized the profound loss King’s death represented for the country, and the causes of peace and justice.
That is why I am so proud that my city, and its leaders and citizens, have continued to honor the memories of these two men, and their life’s work for peace, justice and equality.
Last year new playground equipment was installed in the park. During his speech tonight, Mayor Hogsett asked us to be quiet. We could hear the voices of the children playing in the park. The Mayor has been known to do so himself:
Tonight we were all enthralled to hear the story of Reese Hamilton, 8 years old, who was honored with the Trailblazer Award by the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative. Last year Reese was very disturbed by two murders that occurred near his home. He didn’t want any of his classmates to come home to crime tape.
He wrote a letter to Mayor Joe Hogsett. “8-year-old Reese has called this community together to make sure we understand our fundamental responsibility to all these kids and that’s to provide them with a peaceful and safe future,” said Hogsett.
Reese organized a peace walk through his neighborhood. Participants included the his football team and friends, players from another football team (Indianapolis Colts), the Mayor, city policemen and firefighters.
You can read more of Reese’s story, and support his work here: https://www.gofundme.com/2pyuufhn