Monday, Jan. 19 marked the celebration of the 79th birthday of the late Martin Luther King Jr. Recently, it has become a celebration that Rochester’s 19th Ward residents share with each other. Neighbors lined the streets with candles, and hot cocoa stands could be found throughout the neighborhoods.
Luminary Evening is celebrated every Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the 19th Ward. The tradition was started in the winter season of 2006. The idea was engineered by a group of neighbors who wanted to have a day of celebration when people could come together as a community to honor the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr.
Dan DeMarle, the head of the 19th Ward Community Association, and his wife were the driving forces behind the event. The DeMarles started the event to encourage community members to come out of their homes during the midwinter and engage in community activities.
The DeMarles discussed the racial and social diversity of the 19th Ward community and felt a community gathering was the best way to foster community spirit.
This year, UR and Tops Supermarkets were the primary sponsors of the event.
Members of the community lined up in front of their homes with luminaries, or candles, that they purchased from Hunts Hardware store on Thurston Road and the 19th Ward Community Association. All of the proceeds generated from the event went to the 19th Ward Community Association.
The DeMarle family were excited and pleased that there was an increase in UR students at the event and added that it was critical that the two communities Riverview and the 19th ward work cohesively.
The increase in student participation can in part be attributed to the proximity of Riverview residents to the 19th ward.
In addition to residents, local businesses took a prominent role in the event. Boulder Coffee and Staybridge Suites, two new businesses to the area, hosted hot chocolate stands and welcomed neighbors.
Neighbors speculated that poor weather may have kept some residents away, and that there seemed to be a decrease in attendance this year. Residents were encouraged to set up hot cocoa stands along with the businesses to counter the frigid temperatures.
The event brought out a handful of students and community members of different ethnicities. Community members that participated were pleased to see the diversity.
The 19th Ward Association is trying to get students to continue participating in community events. Despite some negative incidents surrounding the pedestrian bridge that crosses the Genesee River, DeMarle believes that events like the Luminary Evening will end misconceptions of an unsafe community and hoped that community events like these would bury these sterotypes.
Kajubi is a member of the class of 2009.