“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
By DENISE GRANT
A crowd of 250 people joined the Black Heritage Library and Multicultural Center’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. unity walk and tribute program, despite the blustery conditions on Monday’s holiday.
The large turnout may have been a record for the event. The tribute program has been held every year since the library’s founding in 1982. Monday’s event was the center’s 18th unity walk.
The walk took about 10 minutes, with the group gathering at the Church of the Living God, 701 N. Main St., and walking to the Winebrenner Theological Seminary, 950 N. Main St., where a brief ceremony of reflection and prayer was held.
The group then returned to the Church of the Living God for the tribute program, which included prayer, music and dance.
The Rev. Jack Sullivan Jr., senior pastor at First Christian Church, 1624 Tiffin Ave., was the keynote speaker at Monday’s tribute to King.
Sullivan is member of many community organizations, including the Findlay Civil Rights Alliance, the Findlay Ministerial Alliance, the National Action Network and the NAACP. A native of Cleveland, Sullivan holds a bachelor’s degree in interpersonal communication from Ohio University, Athens, and a master’s degree in economic and social justice from the United Theological Seminary, Dayton. He also received an honorary doctorate from Bethany College, Bethany, West Virginia.
Sullivan said King is often described by the media as the “slain civil rights leader.” He said pundits often dismiss the fact that King was a Baptist Christian minister, compelled by his faith to speak out against injustice.
Sullivan called the gospel of Jesus Christ “radical” and demanding.
Monday’s program included a recording of King delivering his final sermon, “Drum Major Instinct,” given Feb. 4, 1968. King concluded the sermon by imagining his own funeral, and delivering his own eulogy.
His widow, Coretta Scott King, would later play the recorded speech at his funeral, held just two months later on April 9, 1968.
In an excerpt from the sermon, King eulogized: “I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe the naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.”
Sullivan said that 50 years later, injustice remains.
“Speak out!” Sullivan repeated as he named a long list of what he described as modern injustices: sexual harassment, unequal pay for women, the lack of treatment for addictions and mental health problems, the lack of affordable health care, “the modern day slavery of human trafficking,” the rise of hate groups, deportations, mass incarcerations, the death penalty, and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“Out of Washington, we see what happens when bigotry is married to political power, when undisguised hate is given a hall pass and vulgarity is spewed from the highest office in the land,” Sullivan said.