By Andrea McCann
Washington Times Herald
WASHINGTON — A look back at a brief history of civil rights was the focus of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Ceremony at Beulah AME Church Monday night.
The annual event, held around King’s Jan.15 birthday, recognizes his contributions and work in helping to advance the Civil Rights Movement. A civil rights activist, Baptist minister and 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner, King was known for championing civil rights through nonviolent civil disobedience in the 1950s and 1960s.
Monday’s program began with a welcome and prayer by Pastor David Williams. The congregation sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and hymns throughout the program, and also was treated to musical selections by Providence Mennonite Women’s Group, Richard Sworn and featured speaker, Elder Christopher Williams of the Demotte Crossroads Church.
“We cannot forget the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was a reverend before he was a doctor,” said Elder Williams, brother of Beulah’s Pastor Williams, in his presentation. ”I don’t think the rest would have happened without his belief in Jesus Christ.”
Williams circled around the theme of each person discovering his or her destiny as King did, citing scripture and telling the congregation: “Trust that your set time of destiny is coming.”
He explained by quoting Galatians 3:26-29, which states: So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
“God cannot lie, and He made us promises, so the promises He made to the heirs you are must come true,” Williams said.
In being an heir, each person has an inheritance to build on and pass on, he continued. Jesus represents a Kingdom; a kingdom involves royalty and a king; a king has a queen, and their heirs are princes and princesses, Williams said.
“At the appropriate time, they transition to king or queen,” he said. ”Each of you are princes and princesses in the Kingdom because of what Christ said.”
But, Williams said, princes and princesses require training before their transition to king or queen.
He quoted 1 Corinthians 13:11, which says: When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Williams asked the congregation to consider whether their thoughts, words and actions are childish. He told them if they’re complaining and not offering solutions they’re not helping to bring about change.
He encouraged everyone to pursue growth in their thoughts, words and actions.
“Complaints blame lives. Examples change lives,” he said.
Everyone can set a positive example and make a difference, much like Martin Luther King Jr., who said “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” and “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
“There’s a dream ready to burst out of you, a destiny ready to burst out of you,” Williams said. ”Your purpose is to reach that place where dreams become reality.”
Prior to Christopher Williams’ speech, Pastor George Qualley of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church started a history lesson with a presentation on the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment.
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Pres. Abraham Lincoln in January of 1863, Qualley explained, but had been in the works by a coalition of blacks and whites since September of 1862. Surprising to some people, it freed only slaves held in the rebellious Civil War states and the freedom it promised depended upon a Union victory. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in December 1865, formally abolished slavery in the United States.
Attorney Mary Goss also spoke during the program, describing her childhood in Lee County, Arkansas, named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee. She talked about segregation and voting rights, explaining that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was key in bringing about civil and political liberties, thanks to King.