King program marked with prayers, scripture, music
Published 9:00 am Wednesday, January 18, 2017
AMERICUS — The annual program honoring the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was held on Monday at the Sumter County Courthouse. The event, sponsored by the local Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Association, was themed “God is Our Only Hope” this year.
The Rev. Michael Coley Sr. was emcee for the event. The colors were presented by the Americus-Sumter High School JROTC.
Southwestern Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Rucker Smith gave the welcome. He said he was very honored to give the welcome because “everybody was welcome in Dr. King’s world.”
“He didn’t have animosity or hatred for anyone. Everyone was welcome whether you were young or you were just young at heart … Whether you were poor or you were blessed with the American dream, you were welcome. Whether you were urban or rural, you were welcome. Whether you were Christian or Jew, or Muslim or non-believer, Dr. King made you welcome. This is everybody’s holiday. This isn’t one person’s holiday. This is an American holiday, a national holiday. … It’s your holiday; it’s my holiday because we’re all welcome here because we’re all the same. We’re all Americans. We have more that makes us common … more that brings us together than divides us … ”
Pastor Ronrica Gordon and his wife performed musical selections appropriate to the occasion during the program.
Prayers were offered by the Rev. Eugene Tookes; Americus City Council member Rashad Dowdell read scripture; and Sumter County Board of Commissioners Chair, Randy Howard also spoke briefly. He said that Columbus State University is in the process of gathering oral histories of local people who were actually involved in the civil rights movement in Sumter County in the 1960s.
The Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department’s 2016 7- and 8-year-old state football championship team were also recognized along with their coach, Dwight Harris.
State Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus, also was on the program.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” he said. “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate; violence multiplies violence. And toughness multiplies toughness in the descending spiral of destruction. The chain reaction of evil, hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars, must be broken or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”
Kirk shared a couple of things that he said “I know Dr. King knew.”
The first, from the book of John, “God is love,” and “you cannot love apart from God. … If you don’t know God, you don’t know love.”
Secondly, Kirk quoted from Thessalonians. “If a man won’t work, neither let him eat.” Kirk said the bible says a man “won’t work, not a man “can’t” work.
“I’m thankful that Dr. Martin Luther King stood against the things that were wrong in our society in his day. In 2017, it’s your turn and it’s my turn to stand for what’s right … Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the light. There is value in work and you cannot know love unless you know God. Please … let’s teach this generation. We’ve got a generation that’s lost. They don’t know love and they don’t know the value of work and they don’t know Jesus …”
Linda Edge introduced the keynote speaker, her husband, the Rev. Michael Edge, pastor of William Grove Baptist Church, Ellaville.
The minister said on “this day of remembrance,” that in order to know how to proceed in the future, we should look back and recognize the past.
He invoked the name of the late Rev. Joseph R. Campbell, who was a leader of the local civil rights movement in the 1960s. He said he remembered a time when he and other black students had to attend school in dilapidated buildings and use second- and third-hand school books, “while the board of education members sent their children to private schools to be educated.” He recalled the 21-day school boycott, which ultimately resulted in the construction of the Sumter County Comprehensive High School in 1982.
Edge referred to King as “a modern-day Moses, a peacemaker, a designer, a messenger of non-violence, a drum major of love and righteousness,” who “brought about the greatest social change in the history of our country. His leadership started the progress of lifting a heavy burden form this country. While others preached hatred, he preached and taught the principal of love. He understood that in order to love God, you have to love your brother. …”
The minister said the greatest gift we could give King if he were here today would be “the gift of love, the gift of peace, and the gift of unity.” He said wherever there is unity, there is also strength. Quoting from the bible, he referred to the fall of the Wall of Jericho. He told those gathered that regardless of their situation, “God always has a plan.”
Edge’s main message was unity and love.
“If Americans, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants, and Catholics, rich and poor, would join forces in the spirit of love, that wall [of injustice] would come tumbling down. Justice would flow like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. If we could come together in a spirit of love, senseless murders would cease. If we would come together in the sense of love, slum lords would have to go out of business. If we come together in the spirit of love, police brutality would have to end.”
Edge said the day should not just be celebrated only by African Americans but “the freedoms of whites, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups were also wrapped up in this movement as well. You must understand that until all of us make it, none of us makes it. Until whites, blacks, rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles come together in the spirit of love … peace … unity, the walls will not come down.”
The Rev. Mathis Wright, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was presented with the R.L. Freeman Award for outstanding service to his community. Pastor Eugene Hall of Jackson Grove Baptist Church, DeSoto, made the presentation.
Wright said he was supposed to get the award at the service to follow at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, but being that he could not attend that service due a funeral, it was presented at the courthouse gathering.
Wright said, in accepting the award, “With any award, it’s never praise me; always give God the praise for me, because any success I have is because God has blessed me to accomplish anything that I do.”
Wright said that when most people engage him a “battle or fight,” they don’t realize they aren’t fighting him but are fighting God, and they don’t stand a chance to win it. He said his trust in God has led him to his successes.
Like King, Wright said, he, too has a dream: “that we all come together as one, caring, communicating with each other and not always be on the adversary mode when you see one another coming. We have to be able to discuss our issues and problems. … to come to the table of peace in love and honor. … Let’s come together Americus and set an example, not only for the city, but for the state … the entire United States and … world. I don’t have to be the head or the leader. I just want to be at the table to bring us together as one cohesive unit and not to do my will but to do God’s will.”
Following a march from the courthouse, another program was held in recognition of King at the church.