An impressive roster of heavy hitters delivered profoundly memorable moments during Monday night’s commemorative service observing the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
Hyundai Motor America teamed up with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ to produce an evening of inspiration and encouragement for nearly 1,000 who witnessed “The Dream Lives.”
National Rainbow PUSH Coalition Director Rev. Jesse L. Jackson brought the perspective of one who could uniquely speak as a closely held ally of Dr. King during his last, critical hours.
“Dr. King’s dream did not die on that balcony at the Lorraine Motel because hatred could not kill the dream. Racism could not kill the dream. A bullet could not kill the dream. The dream lives, the spirit of resurrection lives on in each of us. Those kids marching to ban assault weapons and implement more thorough background checks are multicultural, multiracial, and a part of the same dream It’s the same resurrection spirit because the dream lives on.”
Congressman Steve Cohen remembered working with Russell Sugarmon and others to make things better, but conceded that there was still much work to be done.
“There is still much work to do when our president is sparking a nuclear arms race with Putin, and the tax bill just passed give 85 percent of the benefits to the wealthiest,” said Cohen. “Racism is still alive and well when Klansmen and neo-Nazis march and the president says that ‘there are some very fine people.’
“We must vote and we must put people first in honor of Dr. King. I am happy and proud to be part of the resistance.”
Evangelist Louise Patterson, widow of the late Presiding Bishop G.E. Patterson honored both the memories of Dr. King and her husband.
“We were on our honeymoon in Atlanta when the phone rang,” said Mrs. Patterson. “Two sanitation workers had been killed on the job, and they were striking. Or two garbage men were killed because that’s how they were being treated – garbage men. Once we got that call,that was the end of our vacation.
“But there was a strategy team of two women and seven men – Cornelia Crenshaw, Rev. H. Ralph Jackson, and Ezekiel Bell. It’s must never forget those who paved the way and went before us. We must always remember where we came from so we will know where we’re going.”
Grammy-Award-nominated Temple of Deliverance Choir rendered gospel music in its finest tradition, but the evening’s musical highlight was international star of stage and opera Audrey Dubois Harris, who presented an operatic rendition of an, old religious standard, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”
Stan Bell was the occasion’s master of ceremonies. COGIC Presiding Bishop greeted the crowd after a mid-program arrival, complete with a motorcade of black SUVs and 10motocycle police escorts.
Former pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church Dr. Alvin O’Neal Jackson offered some of the evening’s most thoughtful remarks.
“We are in Holy Week II. We celebrated Easter last week, but this is Holy Week II.,” he said. “Even as we look back to that dark day in this city, we know that the dream yet lives.
“I was 17 years old, working Robinson’s Photography Studio down in Indianola, Mississippi. And I heard the news that Dr. King had been shot. I just went numb. I felt rage and fear and frustration and anxiety. I felt lonely and deserted because my voice had been taken away.
“I marched to the cadence of his oratory. The feelings of inadequacy and those other feelings I had no name for, Dr. King had come along and could wrap it all up in language.
“I remember standing on the corner of Roosevelt and Hannah Street,” said Dr. Jackson. “And a car drove by with some white men in it and they were yelling, ‘We got him. We got Martin Luther Coon.’ Yes, I was angry. I was very angry.”
“But I found out that they only stilled the echo. Dr. King’s voice was the second voice. For he heard the First Voice, and his was only the echo. Because that first voice said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light. And that first voice said, ‘And it is good.’ It spoke again and said, ‘It is very good.’
“The enemy dealt with the echo, but that first voice was untouched. I found out that the echo was gone, but the first voice still speaks, and the dream lives. God will do His will with or without me. The dream is alive and well, I tell you.”
Hyundai , the event’s main sponsor, perhaps, offered the most inspiring moments through videos of Dr. King marching to the tempo of his own words from the iconic “I Have A Dream speech.”