Remembering a King
Published: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 at 2:31 p.m.
The voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. boomed through speakers at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Gainesville Tuesday night as the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida kicked off a week of events in remembrance of the slain civil rights leader.
"Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last," audience members heard through a recording, his message sounding strong and stirring.
More than 400 people attended the 21st Annual King Week kick-off ceremony at the church, located at 100 NE 1st St. This year's event was dedicated in memory of civil rights icon Rosa Parks, who died late last year.
The ceremony began with songs by the Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church men's choir, which had the audience on its feet clapping to the choir's baritone harmony.
Keynote speaker the Rev. Adrian S. Taylor, pastor of Springhill Missionary Baptist Church, compared a biblical parable from John 5:1-47, about Jesus healing a man stricken with an infirmity for 38 years, to what he considers the true meaning of the King Holiday.
He retold the story of the man lying before a healing pool of water, but never getting in it. The man gave an excuse as to why he hadn't been healed by getting into the pool, saying no one would put him into it, or others would get in his way if he tried to enter.
"It has been about 38 years since Martin Luther King Jr. has passed, and we are still at the pool like the man in the parable. The man had spent more than half his life down at the pool. I call him 'Too Long John.' He was down there too long in the same rut. He was there too long enduring the same sickness and disease.
"We're in bad shape and the shameful part is we're looking for someone else to help us. Some things we can do for ourselves," Taylor told the audience, "That was King's dream. His dream was that we would work together and get it done for ourselves."
Taylor continued, "After healing the man, he told him, 'Rise, take thy bed and walk.' This is Jesus reminding him to not forget what he had done for him. We should do the same. Don't ever forget where you came from, let people know you were once down, but God picked you up."
The audience applauded Taylor's message. The scene was like Sunday morning at church service.
During the Tuesday night program, Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan told audience members that "the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is one of those holidays not for us to just sit back, but to turn our words into action.
"We should recognize what Dr. King did and said is not for African-Americans, but for everyone to try to live by. I believe this community, in this series of events during King Week 2006, is trying to further the work of Dr. King."
Jack Donovan, Gainesville city commissioner said, "Martin Luther King Jr. asked us to remember him as a drum major, and as we do, remember he was pointing us in a certain direction to march, we had to do the marching."
Donovan continued, "He came to us and served as drum major, and the music he was asking us to hear and march to came from his hearing of the Word. He asked us to keep a constant beat in (our) hearts to march for."
The night's program was filled with musical selections and solos. Local schools such as Williams Elementary had the audience's full attention singing under the direction of Blanch Robbins, the diverse children's choir members seemed to personify King's dream of all God's children black men and white men being equal.
There were moving solos by Leon Young and Annie Pearl Curtis. Curtis had audience members on their feet as she sang a soulful rendition of the song, "Pray for Me."
Duval Fine Arts Academy's drummers received a standing ovation for their performance.
The Rev. Marie Herring gave a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., reading a biography of King's life and his educational background, stressing that education was his foundation.
Alachua County Commissioner Rodney L. Long, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida, said the success of the kick-off was a good start to King Week 2006.
"We've started on a good note and had a call to action from Rev. Taylor. Tonight's event will set the tone for the week."
Teresa D. Southern can be reached at (352) 337-0373 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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