Dozens march in Stamford to honor MLK – and look to the future
In a tradition that dates back four decades, dozens of people marched to downtown Stamford Monday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. The civil rights icon would have been 95 years old.
But for organizers, the event isn’t about the past; it’s about looking toward the future.
“Despite the segregation, he still was able to rise up from that,” said Tiffany Polite, president of the Stamford MLK Committee. “And, you know, today we can do the same.”
The march comes as the nation is deeply divided over teaching Critical Race Theory in schools and police reform. Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Connecticut passed a sweeping Police Accountability Law. But critics claim the new rules could make it even harder to recruit new officers.
In Stamford, marchers called for more equitable inner-city schools and more affordable housing.
“I think his message was always that we need to provide for those who need assistance,” said Donn Reid, with the DOMUS Equity Institute. “And I think one of the things that we struggle with in the city of Stamford is providing affordable housing.”
Mayor Caroline Simmons has made affordable housing a priority, but in a city that is rapidly growing – and gentrifying – keeping housing costs down is a challenge.
“I’ve signed an executive order with the goal of creating or upgrading a thousand new affordable housing units in the next two years,” said Simmons. “We already are on track to meet that goal.”
Simmons has faced pushback from longtime residents who feel the city is growing too fast. The mayor won a nasty charter revision battle in November that would have limited her power to appoint members to the city zoning board.
“They make decisions as to where things get built, how they get built, how close to the property line things are going to get built,” city Rep. Nina Sherwood (D-8th District) told News 12 Connecticut in November. “The charter revision – if people vote ‘yes’ – closes loopholes that large developers, their law firms, big construction companies are using to overdevelop the city of Stamford.”
Statewide, affordable housing is a lightning rod. This year, housing advocates may re-introduce a bill to impose “Fair Share” housing quotas on smaller towns. Developers complain that restrictive zoning laws make it nearly impossible to build affordable homes, but many communities argue that density will ruin their small-town character, hurt the environment and strain their limited resources.
No what your matter your politics are, Polite said Dr. King’s legacy should be about making your voice heard.
“Anyone from the youngest to the oldest can be a ‘barrier breaker’ – whether it be women's rights, whether it be civil rights, whether it just be in life,” she said. “A ‘barrier breaker’ is someone who creates change. It really only takes one person to come out with a message that can unify a whole people.”