Humphrey Harrington is optimistic that his children and grandchildren will face less hardship thanks to the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But he also believes society still has some work to do.
“We are in line now to keep it going,” he said. “I’m 73, and as we get older, the younger generation needs to bring this about because we aren’t there yet. We’ve got a long way to go, and it’s going to take some time to get there.”
Harrington was among the hundreds who gathered at First Baptist Church on East Lexington Avenue Monday night to celebrate King’s work and legacy and contemplate ways to further advance his dream.
Part history lesson and part church service, the two-hour event included prayer, scriptural readings and sermons, emphasizing the importance of unity in society and among Christians.
The night kicked off with a candle-light march from the Clark County Courthouse, down Main Street to the church. Inside, congregants from a diversity of cultures and denominations joined voices and hands while community leaders called for more sincere efforts toward racial solidarity.
The program’s guest speaker, the Rev. Brian Walton from Calvary Christian Church, cited scriptural examples of God’s call to unity and noted that despite 40 years of progress, King’s ultimate goals remain unfulfilled.
He reasoned that the final solution to racial tension is a full embrace of Jesus’ teaching.
“We need to stop talking so much about racial reconciliation. We do need reconciliation — absolutely. But what we need is full and complete reconciliation to God.” Walton said to applause. “If we have full and complete reconciliation to God, and if you and I become followers of God, racial reconciliation will not be a concern.”
In a timeline of King’s life, the Rev. Marvin King, pastor of First Baptist Church on Highland Street, also challenged the crowd to not let the activist’s dream die.
“It is that legacy that calls at us to each other across the aisle and across denominational lines, and across political affiliations and across economic lines,” he said. “It is that message that lives and breathes in each and every one of us today.”
At other times throughout the program, the Community Praise Team, led by Lorenzo Taylor, offered an interpretive dance, and the First Baptist Church choir from Highland Street led in singing gospel music.
One attendee, Tracy Jones, brought her 10-year-old son, Tre’Von, to learn about King’s work and the history of the civil rights era. Jones said she teaches her son not to judge others by race, and she was glad to see people of different races join together in celebration.
“Just to see everyone get together from all races, I think, is very important,” Jones said.
Ronda Simmons, who organized the program with Angela Berry, said she was pleased with the turnout and that “anything surrounded by God is good.”
“It’s very much needed, and, like (Walton) said, if we have God first, everything else will come into play,” said Simmons.
Contact Mike Wynn at email@example.com.