By James Beaty
Local and area residents gathered Friday at Mount Triumph Missionary Baptist Church in McAlester for a special commemorative ceremony honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Rev. Dr. David Monk served as featured speaker for the event, speaking on the theme “Living the Dream... Moving Forward.” Monk is minister at Edgewood United Methodist Church in Hartshorne, which is near the Haileyville city limits.
The Rev. Anthony D. Washington, pastor at Mount Triumph, served as master of ceremonies for the event.
“Since we are a multi-cultural nation, I feel it’s important for us to know something about every person’s culture we live and function with,” Washington said.
The Rev. Donald Brown read from scripture and gave the invocation.
Students from James Brown’s class at McAlester High School attended the ceremony, as did students from Holly Kennon’s and Kris Wood’s fourth grade classes at Edmond Doyle Elementary School.
Also during the ceremony, the MLK Unity Choir under the direction of Loise Washington performed two numbers.
“The MLK Unity Choir annually looks forward to this program,” Loise Washington said.
She then led the choir in a sing titled “Grateful,” a number in which the choir repeated the title phrase again and again in a rising crescendo as the number reached its peak.
In addition to the choir, performing musicians included Cletis Lowe, on electric keyboards and vocals; Kevin Priddle, the former McAlester mayor, on guitar; Donald Brown Jr., on drums and Jerri Burris, on piano.
The director then led the musicians and choir on a second number, “”I’m Grateful for the Things You’ve Done,” a faster gospel-tinged number which led to many crowd members, including many of the children, spontaneously clapping along.
“Are you all grateful today?” Loise Washington asked, as many in the seats responded “Yes!”
That led to Monk’s presentation as the keynote speaker.
He started with a story about two children playing together — a little rich girl and a little poor girl. While they played, the little rich girl pointed out a mansion on the hill, an airplane in the sky and a yacht on a lake, and told the other girl it all belonged to her daddy.
The little poor girl lowered her head, until she remembered a song she’d heard in Sunday school, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”
“See that hill,” she told the other girl. “My Daddy made that hill.”
“My Daddy made the moon and the stars and the sky. My Daddy made that water.”
Speaking of the point of his story, Monk said “When we put things in perspective, God is the great equalizer.”
“You pray for me and I’ll pray for you,” he said.
Monk also referred to the commemorative ceremony under way at the church.
“Events such as this remind us of whence we have come,” he said.
“The dream of Martin Luther King was not forged in a vacuum,” Monk said. “There’s a larger context in which the dream of Martin Luther King was born.”
Monk invoked the name of the writer and co-founder of the NAACP, W.E.B. Du Bois; men he called black nationalists, such as Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X, and men he called activists, such as the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
He also referred to a letter that King had written while in the Birmingham Jail, talking about the importance of Christians coming together.
Monk spoke of the Biblical scripture, which states “If my people come together ... I will heal their land.”
He referred to Jacob, Daniel and Joseph from the Bible, noting Joseph was sold into slavery.
Returning to modern times, Monk criticized what he called “the prison industrial complex,” saying we put people who commit non-violent crimes in prison “and throw away the key.”
“No one can kill our dream,” Monk said. “If He gives you a dream, a bullet can’t kill it.” What God has begun in you, he will finish, Monk said.
Monk spoke of the time when he said King referred to the part of the Constitution that stated “All men are created equal,” but when he sent a “check” to cash in on that promise, it came back marked “insufficient funds.”
He also referred to a speech by President Barack Obama.
“There is a vision of a better America,” Monk said. “It begins with prayer.
“We should put aside our differences,” he said.
“The dream is still alive. The vision before us is a vision of excellence.
“I hope you will continue to embrace the dream of Martin Luther King, but more important, to embrace the dream the vision of excellence,” Monk said.
Following Monk’s presentation, Pittsburg County Holiday Commission Chairman Miller Newman presented him with a framed certificate of appreciation for serving as speaker for the event.
“I don’t know if I should say anything or not after that,” Newman said, referring to Monks’ presentation. “I just heard a message; everyone could take a piece of that and carry it with them.”
Rev. Washington closed the ceremony.
“It’s not a black America; it’s not a white America,” he said. “It’s a melting pot and we’re all here together.”
Looking over the crowd, Washington nodded toward the students attending the event.
“It’s a beautiful bouquet of flowers,” he said.
“We pray for justice and equality,” Washington said. “Show us how to have compassion, one for the other.”
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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