Community celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

-A A +A


Calen McKinney


James Roberts


They marched, sang and worshiped together, in memory of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Local events honoring King began Saturday afternoon with the annual march from Campbellsville Middle School to First Baptist Church, where community members spoke about King's legacy and how the Taylor County community can honor it.

About 40 people participated in the march.

On Saturday night, Dr. James Jones could not fight back the tears as he recounted an episode from his childhood in Birmingham, Ala.

Speaking to a crowd gathered at First Baptist Church's Imani Center for the annual reception in King's honor, Jones, who serves as 1st District magistrate, told one of his earliest encounters with racism.

Jones was with his family at a department store in Birmingham when he had to go to the restroom.

"When I came out there was a little African American boy standing there."

The boy needed to use the restroom, too, but black people were not allowed to use the restroom that Jones had just exited.

Jones said he watched as the boy cried, asking his mother why he couldn't use the restroom. The boy then wet himself.

"Why in the world does this happen?" Jones asked.

King transformed the country, Jones said, helping to ensure equal rights for "all of God's creations."

"I thank God for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."

However, Jones said he doesn't believe that young people really understand just what King accomplished. He urged those in attendance to teach their children and grandchildren about King.

Campbellsville Mayor Tony Young challenged the crowd to work to "Improve your neighborhood, school and town ... without expecting something in return."

The Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers of Covington performed several acapella songs at the reception.

Events concluded Sunday with a memorial worship service at Campbellsville University's Ransdell Chapel.

In welcoming the crowd to the CU campus, the Rev. James T. Washington III, president of the Campbellsville Ecumenical Ministerial Alliance, which hosted the service, said many of King's dreams have been accomplished.

"His dream is still alive, amen," Washington said. "[But] we still need to keep the dream alive."

The Rev. Melvin Mills, a member of the ministerial association, quoted from King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

"Dr. Martin Luther King, he had a dream. He had a vision ... If we want to keep that dream alive, [we have] to participate in that vision. At this time, we can all share in the same vision that Martin Luther King had for us."

Mills encouraged the community to keep King's dreams alive by instilling his visions in children.

Dr. Joseph L. Owens, pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Lexington, was the featured speaker at the service.

Owens, who graduated from CU, told the crowd about the dangers of a boastful and prideful attitude, which he referred to as a "drum major" instinct.

He said King would say that we all have a "drum major" instinct, the feeling that we want to be the person in charge and in front, but that we should be careful with that desire.

"Martin Luther King said it's not all bad, you just have to understand it ... be aware of the dangers."

One of the dangers of a "drum major" instinct, Owens said, is for people to become "puffed up" by their desire to be in charge.

"If you don't understand and harness it like Dr. King did, it can cause you to be puffed up.

"You may have a tendency to push down others," Owens said. "And Dr. King said it comes out in things like prejudice, snobiness, exclusiveness."

Owens said people sometimes get caught up in asking for people's education and work credentials.

"Dr. King would have said all of that doesn't amount to a hill of beans," he said. "Prejudice comes out of misuse of the 'drum major' instinct."

However, he said, people can be uncomfortable when faced with someone who is different.

"We like to put people in little pegs. You've got to eat like us, pray like us, dress like us," he said. "I believe Martin Luther King would say, 'You better check yourself.'

"All of us have the 'drum major' instinct. We want to be on top. We're never wrong. You have to set pride aside."

To overcome the "drum major" instinct, Owens said, people need to serve their community.

"It takes humility," he said. "That's the only way you're gonna kill pride. Our problem is we're too proud."

Owens quoted scripture and discussed the story of Joseph and his struggle with pride as an example.

"Because the greatest is the one who serves, and anybody can serve," he said. "Jesus, he was the greatest servant there ever was.

"The 'drum major' instinct isn't about serving. Don't you walk around here like you own something. You are a child of God. Best you can do is be a humble servant."

Ministerial association member the Rev. James Buford, who officiated the service, told the crowd, "You may kill the dreamer but you can't kill the dream."

Buford said he is disappointed that the crowd at the service wasn't more diverse. He said that might be because some believe that the service is only for black people, though it is open to anyone.

To end the service, the crowd sang "We Shall Overcome" while holding hands.

Owens closed the service in prayer.

"We'll get beyond a lot of this mess if we'll serve each other," Owens said. "God bless you. May the love of God smile upon you."