Published January 23, 2019


WAKEFIELD — In spite of the brutally cold weather on Monday, Jan. 21, Wakefield’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration drew a respectable number of people to the Galvin Middle School auditorium to hear inspiring stories, applaud award recipients and pay tribute to the late Wakefield Human Rights Commission (HRC) Founder William Chetwynd.

“Participation,” was the key theme this year, arising from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recently celebrated its 70th anniversary.

The celebration was held by the HRC in partnership with Wakefield’s public schools.


HRC member Jennifer Boettcher introduced the awards that were presented to the following:

Rebecca Hunt, Wakefield Memorial High School senior, received the Student Award for the school’s Gay Straight Alliance, a group dedicated to creating a safer and inclusive school climate for gay and transgender youth. The award was presented by School Committee Chairman Thomas Markham.

The Most Blessed Sacrament Community Dinner ministry was given the Wakefield Community Award for the church’s outreach to the poor and lonely by Town Council Chairman Peter May. The church hosts dinners once a month for people in need of a meal and companionship.

The ministry was founded on scripture from Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Saritin Rizzuto, a former Dominican Republic resident and now an American citizen, received the Wakefield Resident Award presented by Isabel Castro. Rizzuto is vice president of emerging markets and community relations for Metro Credit Union and sits on multiple boards.

“It is with great honor and humility that I accept this recognition this morning,” said Rizzuto. “Although I am being recognized, I am doing what I believe is my obligation as an American. I will cherish this moment and continue to embrace my community and accept on behalf of all people who are fighting for justice and inclusivity.”

Rizzuto, who was nominated by Town Council member Mehreen Butt, said she would dedicate the award to a friend who died last month from an act of domestic violence.

The event also included Wakefield Community Choir’s introit “Never Turning Back,” lyrics by Pat Humphries.

Following this performance were remarks by Pina Masciarelli Patel, chair of the HRC in Wakefield, and an invocation by Reverend Matthew P. Cadwell, Ph.D., Emmanual Episcopal Church, who said about Dr. King, “We need his strong voice and passion. We need to make his dream our own.”

In an essay titled “What Participation Means to Me,” Galvin student Jenna Farber spoke about the need to respect the environment and to support the towns we live in.

The celebration continued with performances by Wakefield students introduced by HRC Member Talat Aman. Performers included Elisabeth Nordeen, Gabby Pandolfo, Melydia McCall and Braelyn McLaughlin with the song “A Soft Place to Land.”

There was also a reading of a letter titled “Dear Black People” by METCO students Ceniya Harris, Abigail Rodriguez, Niani Brewer and Feven Lilay.

Joan Chetwynd, widow of HRC Founder Willian Chetwynd and his daughter Lauralyn Chetwynd Patterson, accepted an award on his behalf. Vice Chairman of the HRC Richard Greif was presenter.

In his remarks, Town Administrator Steve Maio told attendees that Chetwynd came to him several years ago to propose that a Human Rights Commission be established in Wakefield.

In his keynote address, Wakefield resident and Nixon Peabody LLP Attorney Tarae Howell spoke about discrimination and a call for action and asked a question once asked by Dr. King: “What are you doing for others?”

He also shared an anecdote about the help he gave an undocumented teenager from Haiti so she could participate in American culture.

“I had to learn the ins and outs of the immigration process,” said Howell. “She did get her green card.”

He asked those present to “remember the sacrifices of Dr. King” and invited those present to make a commitment to “participate” even if it comes with sacrifices.

Howell is a volunteer with the Boston Debate League, devotes significant time to pro bono matters representing clients in housing and immigration cases and participates in his company’s annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid and a fundraising drive for Greater Boston Legal Services.

In addition to Maio, dignitaries present for the celebration included Congressman Seth Moulton, State Senator Jason Lewis and State Representatives Donald Wong (R-Saugus/Wakefield), Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose).

During his comments, Cong. Moulton quoted Coretta Scott King: “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

Sen. Lewis spoke about justice, equality and opportunity for all and said, “We do not work alone. We are helping in a small way to bend the arc.”

The Wakefield Community Choir closed the event with “Welcome Table,” and Rabbi Greg Hersh from Temple Emmanuel of Wakefield gave the benediction.

Following the celebration, refreshments were served in the cafeteria.