Darmita Wilson, a vice president of Northern Light Medical Group, spoke to a virtual audience Monday at the Rotary Club of Waterville’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast. Wilson, a longtime advocate for health equity and population health living in Bangor, returned Monday to deliver the Rotary Club of Waterville’s 37th annual address on the topic of “unity, from Martin’s eyes.” Screenshot from Zoom

WATERVILLE — Darmita Wilson on Monday virtually delivered a speech at the Waterville Rotary Club’s 37th Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast.

Wilson, a vice president of Northern Light Medical Group, also gave a virtual address at last year’s celebration on her family history, as many of her relatives took part in some of the boycotts, marches and demonstrations against racist discrimination in 1960s Alabama.

Wilson, a longtime advocate for health equity, returned Monday to deliver the Rotary Club of Waterville’s 37th annual address on the topic of “unity, from Martin’s eyes.” About 50 people tuned in for the celebration, which is typically held as a breakfast at Senior Spectrum’s Muskie Center, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was hosted on Zoom.

Wilson’s multimedia presentation contextualized Martin Luther King Jr.’s lessons by looking back at some of the defining moments of the civil rights movement, with added color from her grandmother and mother’s remembrances of historic events like the 1963 March on Washington.

“When I was at the kitchen table at my grandmother’s house,” Wilson said. “She talked about how there were all types of people (at the March on Washington). People that came from everywhere, and that all of them were unified that day.”

Dr. King, Wilson said, brought people of all perspectives together that day to think about the present condition of the United States, and what they could do to make it better. That is the spirit this holiday commemorates annually, she said.

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“(King) said unity does not mean we agree on everything,” Wilson said. “But it does require we respect others’ viewpoints. He also said we can disagree without being disagreeable.”

While it’s important to celebrate the unity King inspires in the modern day, Wilson said it’s just as important to remember the cost of rallying against racism: King was assassinated for his work.

To give an idea of those stakes, Wilson told the story of her 4th birthday, the day before Bloody Sunday, the 1965 civil rights demonstration in Selma, Alabama, led by John Lewis that ended in hundreds of marchers being brutally attacked by state troopers.

“It was my first big birthday party, the day before my grandmother went off to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and she said to me, ‘I’m glad we’re having this party for you. I’m not sure if I’ll get back, but I wanted you to know that I’m so very proud of you, and I can’t wait to see the person you’re going to be.'”

Wilson continued, “I realized some years later that she was on this bridge, and that she contemplated that she might not be returning to her family on this day.”

After highlighting some of these major milestones in civil rights history, Wilson played through some video clips: a speech from Martin Luther King Jr.’s son, and the trailer for “Who We Are,” a Netflix documentary from lawyer and racial justice activist Jeffrey Robinson.

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Then, in keeping with King’s belief that “all viewpoints matter,” Wilson asked for comment from the audience. One participant, Holly Weidner, said reflecting on Dr. King’s work to raise awareness around poverty reminded her of a Morning Sentinel headline Sunday on the working homeless in our community.

“When we have people who are working full-time and cannot afford a home, we have injustice,” said Weidner.

Wilson agreed. “The things that (King) fought for 50 years ago, we’re still fighting, and we’re still dealing with those very same things today,” she said.

After the address, the Rotary Club played two pre-programmed hymns: one said to be King’s favorite (“Lift Every Voice and Sing”), and another with the refrain “let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”

Rick Dorian, executive director of the Maine Children’s Home, delivered the event’s invocation, and Waterville Rotary Club President John Dalton gave a welcome address.

In closing Monday’s celebration, past president of the Rotary Club, Peter Garrett, thanked Wilson for sharing her thoughts, videos and stories.

“Community is what we all work and pray for, live in,” Garrett said. “And what we need to do is just, as you pointed out and Martin Luther King pointed out, make it more equal so that all of us can thrive.”

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