In honor of Martin Luther King Day
This weekend America remembers the works and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In our community the Martin Luther King committee had an interfaith service on Thursday evening at the AME church. There was a white and black speaker at the service. The audience had a decent ratio of interracial participation. I delivered the invocation and along with scriptural readings from clergy around the community we achieved the good feeling of unity and remembrance of Dr. King and the cause of social justice.
The next night Congregation Beth Yam had its own Shabbat services that highlighted the civil rights movement and Dr. King’s life. Instead of the typical preacher we invited John Gadson who serves on the board of the Penn center. This was a vocational training center started in the Lincoln administration and educated blacks for almost a century. Dr. King visited there and held meeting of interfaith clergy on its campus because it was the only place that had the facilities to house blacks and whites in those days. Located on Lady’s Island near Beaufort, South Carolina, the Penn center is on the national historic registry. Mr. Gadson, who was once the executive director of the Penn center, and went on to be a teacher in the business school of the university as well as worked in economic planning for South Carolina governor Richard Riley, gave us a history of the Penn center and related his own experience of meeting Dr. King at a meeting of young black leadership.
Our service was packed and the music was dynamic especially with the singing of the Negro national anthem. People felt moved and they remembered the civil rights era as well as learned about a wonderful historic institution in the low country that they never visited or even had heard about before. The feedback was strong and positive. Many commented that they were truly moved. We had a great turn out from the Black community and the socializing was even further evidence that people want to find ways to come together.
Monday morning at 9:30 will be the community march that will lead us to the high school with a great program. We shall remember and hopefully be inspired. Dr. King’s message deserves our time and has earned our respect. I hope that our congregants at Beth Yam will show up and support the congregation and the community at large.
One can say that a lot has changed for the better in terms of race relations since the sixties and the era of Dr. King’s ministry. We have just dedicated a monument in Washington D.C. to Dr. King. We all understand the critical role he played in this country’s history. His advocacy of non-violence and his passion for a better America is still an important message for us to reflect upon and work for in our society. The work is not, however, done because we are even more racially diverse and in need of renewing our commitment to maintaining an ethos that the content of our character means more than the color of our skin. Dr. King’s vision is about social and economic justice as well as racial harmony.
How many of us have friends from another race? When was the last time when we shared a meal or went out socially with a couple or individual from another race? These are the kinds of questions that we should ask at this time because we could make a difference by just starting with ourselves. Tikkun Olam or repairing the world starts with each of us.