Speech of Mark Poloncarz at the rally against hate and bigotry at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, Buffalo – January 16, 2017

“Thank you Rev. Blue and all of you here today coming together to honor and continue Dr. King’s legacy. I would like to start with a quote. From Dr. King:

“We must all learn to live together as brothers – or we will all perish together as fools. This is the great issue facing us today. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone. We are tied together.”

Those words were spoken by Dr. King more than 51 years ago, though they still ring true today.
They ring true for our community, our state, our nation and our world.

Dr. King understood that no one person is truly free if another is not.

He also knew that the battle for freedom and equality was more than ensuring equal protection under the law, though that surely mattered.

Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, Fanny Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and John Lewis all fought for equality under the law and between the brotherhood of man because they all knew that racism and bigotry of the heart and mind was just as damaging to man and woman as it was under the law.

They all knew our society was only as strong as its weakest person.

They understood if inequality between the races existed, whether it be in health care, education, housing or any other area, our nation could never live up to the promise of equality guaranteed under the Constitution.

Dr. King knew that if one of us lived in poverty, we all are weaker for it. As he said, “the agony of the poor diminishes the rich, and the salvation of the poor enlarges the rich” because “in the final analysis, … both rich and poor are tied in a single garment of destiny.”

Yes, we are all tied together for in the end every one of us makes up that single garment of destiny, the fabric of our community.

That is why we stand here today. Each of us is our brother’s keeper. I need your physical and spiritual support as much as you need mine.

Right now our community needs the support of all, because while we are not defined as a community by any one individual, the fabric of our community can be torn by just one.

That is why I hope the words of Dr. King provide not only us, but all the guidance necessary to resolve the divisiveness that exists today but is as old as man, and in some ways is protected by our own laws.

You see, our Constitution protects the right of free speech, including speech we as a civilized society finds abhorrent.

As an attorney and public servant I will always defend the right of a person to free speech, but the Constitution also gives me and others the right to call out and criticize racist and bigoted speech for what it is.

So today, while I may criticize those who engage in hate speech I also pray that those who spew racist and bigoted speech can realize that they are not a stronger or better person than those they demean, but in fact weaken not only themselves but our greater community.

I pray that we, the brothers and sisters of Buffalo, of Erie County and of western New York, can work together to solve the issues of inequality wherever it may exist because our community is only as strong as the child who lives in poverty in the Langfield projects or in the town of Concord.

I pray that we can rise up as community to overcome the shackles of hatred and racism because until we do we cannot be truly free and equal.

Dr. King knew the struggle would be long. He knew he might not see the day when the mountaintop was reached.

While he and others who fought so valiantly back in the 1950s and 1960s may be gone, their spirit lives in all of us. Their torch has been passed to all, and we must not relent in completing the task.

So I thank you for joining us here today because together we are stronger than one, together we can stand up to hate, together we are our brother’s keeper and together we shall overcome.”

Copyright, Mark C. Poloncarz, 2017