As the nation prepares to observe the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Day on Jan. 15, people across the land will salute his tremendous achievements and dramatic effect on civil rights.
King’s endurance as a history-maker is demonstrated by the ongoing efforts of faith leaders, legislators and laity to make his dream of a color-blind, equitable society a reality.
Seeking insight about King’s legacy and its relevance in the 21st century, the L.A. Sentinel asked four L.A. pastors for their thoughts.
“Dr. King’s life allows us to glean obvious lessons on leadership and courage; yet, his true legacy is that he was willing to be faithful to the call in Matthew 25:40 to sacrificially serve marginalized, underrepresented and poor people,” shared the Rev. James K. McKnight, pastor of the Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship.
Alluding to the uncomfortable feelings King’s messages often provoked, McKnight said, “Dr. King also forced our nation to confront difficult issues. In 2018, those issues and others hinder the progress of the human family. God’s call on us all is timeless. Our failure to respond would be tragic.”
The Rev. Sonja R. Dawson, pastor of New Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, noted that King predicted the expansion of campaign to encompass all humanity. “In 1967 during a staff retreat for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. King stated, ‘I think it is necessary for us to realize that we have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights.’
“In 2018, we are at the height of human rights issues in relation to social and economic disparities, urban sprawl, immigration, homelessness, and under-resourced communities,” insisted Dawson. “The cry for better communities, better schools, better homes, and better education systems should echo even louder forty years later as we move further and further away from ‘The Dream.’ As the current generation of religious and social leaders, we must spring forth to bridge the gaps in the communities for which we live, work, and worship.”
Expressing similar thoughts, the Rev. Rosalynn Brookins, pastor of Walker Temple AME Church, said, “The legacy of Dr. King was to stand up and fight against any and all forms of oppression. Dr. King was the voice crying out in the wilderness for the voiceless. He understood ‘oppression would never be given freely by the oppressor, that it had to be demanded by the oppressed.’
“These words spoken by Dr. King are more relevant today as we watch the hands of civil rights and human rights be dismantled and destroyed right before our very eyes by a racist and corrupt government,” she said.
Also citing the relevancy of King’s message, the Rev. Larry Dozier, pastor of St. John United Methodist Church, shared, “There are still individuals in the world who are not free because of their color or their political beliefs. There is still inequality in America such as that of equal pay for equal work between the sexes, and among the races. We yet live in an unjust world in which sentences for crimes are more severe on one race or class of individuals as opposed to another, i.e., Black vs. White.”
Dozier continued, “There is still a lack of love as is taught in the Bible and quoted in St. Mark 12:30-31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
While King’s dream is still a work in progress, all of the pastors offered actions that believers can employ to further his work in their lives.
Outlining a list of activities, Dozier started with “Trust in God and that He is still in control.” Also, he suggested that believers devote time on the holiday to discussing King’s impact, both in this country and around the world. Dozier further suggested that people become involved in the election process.
“Use non-violent actions to make changes such as voting, getting people registered to vote in the upcoming 2018 mid-term elections. Be proactive about helping President Donald Trump find another, more suitable job,” he said.
“Let Democrats and Republicans alike know that Mr. Trump is not acceptable as our president of these United States of America and that we are holding them accountable for doing their jobs: honoring their oath of office to protect America over any enemy, within or without and above political affiliations, America first. Work tirelessly to correct this mistake (DT), even as we did to get President Obama elected in 2008 and 20012,” declared Dozier.
Advocating unity, Brookins professed, “Dr. King’s was to someday see a unified community walking, and standing together in the midst of disharmony. The challenge for African Americans is we must not allow others to divide us based upon their individual agenda. We must continue to fight for all who are oppressed.”
To churches and ministries, Dawson recommended adopting “King’s organizational strategies” to focus on collaboration instead on competition because “there is strength in numbers.”
Dawson added, “Religious and social justice leaders must also engage in more action-based strategic planning. Every dialogue and town hall meeting should end with tangible action plans that can be implemented to address discussed areas of need.
“In addition, we must be willing to overcome our personal biases, obstacles, and challenges to engage in multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual partnerships. Moreover, we must address the issues of human rights with love and compassion like Jesus — our ultimate example,” she said.
McKnight advised, “Let’s keep Dr. King’s dream alive with four S’s. Survey the history. The rich history will inspire and instruct. Support organizations and/or individuals who are fighting against racial and economic injustice and the senseless killing of members of the human family. Seek the Lord in prayer. Start now doing something that you know God is calling you to do.”