Martin Luther King Jr. Service Held at Friendship Baptist Church
Published 4:06 pm Monday, January 22, 2024
A service for Martin Luther King Jr. Day was held at Friendship Baptist Church. Several sororities and fraternities were present and participated in the event. Among those in attendance were the Nu Zeta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at GSWU, the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, and the Rho Sigma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. The masonic body The Order of the Eastern Star was also present.
Also in attendance were Sherrif Eric Bryant, Sumter County’s first African American Sherrif, along with Police Chief Mark Scott, Commissioner Clay Jones, and Mayor Lee Kinnamon.
The service opened with the anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing and a prayer by Bishop Melvin McCluster. Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and the school board, Carolyn Hamilton, whose sorority hosted the event, served as one of the emcees. Eric Finch, a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, served as the other emcee.
Dwight Harris, founder of the Dwight Harris Boy’s Club, was one of the intro speakers, remarking on the importance of repentance, confession, baptism, and choosing not to deny God.
Afterward Hamilton introduced Reverend and Deputy Coroner Mathis Wright, who also gave an introductory speech before the keynote speaker.
Wright warned those gathered in the sanctuary against the trap of celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. without celebrating their own current efforts. He stated that King no longer had the ability to encourage those gathered, leaving those still living with the duty.
He impressed the crowd that they were given callings but were not following them. Mathis stated that King had God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Wright warned that the Holy Spirit was present in the church house, but that congregants were not carrying Him out into the world to those who needed him.
Wright turned to various current struggles he saw as pressing issues in the struggle for equality. He talked about the need to fight against the jerrymandering of districts. Wright stated that marching would not yield results and that the fight needed to be carried to the courts.
Wright said that he answered to God and God only, that’s why he was strong.
“If God wasn’t fighting for me, don’t you know these white folks would have snuffed me out. Any time you fight with God, you fixing to lose.”
Wright continued to passionately exhort those gathered in memory of King, stressing the importance of their votes. He criticized the three white commissioners and their choice of Randy Howard who was elected as the Republican nominee, stating that now the commissioners wanted to pick the Democratic seat on the Board of Elections.
Wright also emphasized that the right had no color and that God saw the hearts of those in the right. He also asked how many in the black community had voted, stating everyone had equal political power when it came time to vote.
Afterward the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Choir sang several moving songs. One particularly striking example called for God to saturate the hearts of those gathered, asking Him to surround them with his glory.
Rosemary Robinson Jones, the keynote speaker, addressed those gathered with inspirational exhortations. Jones, a retired teacher with a combined 36 years of experience teaching in Lee and Sumter County School systems, was an assistant principal and president of the local Georgia Association of Educators. She is currently a member of the Desoto Women’s Civic Club and an active church member.
Jones emphasized that those gathered should not only talk about King but follow in his footsteps. She told them to imitate King by no longer worrying about serving the healthy and wealthy, but by serving the least and the lost.
Jones exhorted those gathered to not waste time, but use their talents, as they stood on the shoulders of a giant. She reminded them of the need to renew their commitment and be a part of the change they wished to see.
She told the crowd that the struggle was not against flesh and blood, and that they must use light to drive out darkness.
Finally, she stressed to those gathered that everyone there was somebody, her words energizing the crowd like the beat of marching music, following them as they left the church Sanctuary of Friendship Baptist and went out into the community.
Correction: The original article read “He criticized the three white commissioners and their choice of Randy Howard, stating that now they wanted to pick the Democratic seat on the Board of Elections.” The addition that Randy Howard was the Republican nominee was added to clarify that Wright was talking about both the past nomination of Howard as a Republican Board member and the current rejections of the Democratic nominees to the Board of Elections.