It’s a testament to the influence of the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years after his assassination, many who had braved the cold to pay homage to King had to be turned away from the doors of Ebenezer Baptist Church Monday. It was a capacity crowd that turned out for the Ecumenical Service, in remembrance of the slain icon on MLK Day. It was the celebration of Dr. King’s 89th birthday, the 50th annual birthday program. The Horizon Sanctuary of the church seats 2,000.
Inside Ebenezer, its Pastor, Dr. Raphael Warnock, railed against the Trump Administration, as HUD Secretary Ben Carson sat stoically on the dais. Referring to Trump reportedly calling Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries “sh- – hole” places, Warnock called it “a volcanic eruption of hate speech.” In reference to Trump honoring the memory of Dr. King with a proclamation, Warnock said “a proclamation without an apology is hipocracy. It makes a mockery of the man we remember. Mr. Trump, you need to repent.” Warnock called it “consistent with what we have seen and heard. This is not new, it’s just a new low.” Warnock asked if this is how the Administration proposes to “make America great again?” Warnock adding, “I submit that America is already great. If you had the benefit of 244 years of free labor, you’d be great too.” That remark was greeted by thunderous applause.
When Carson brought greetings, “to celebrate the life and legacy of a great man”, he said he marveled at the thousands of people “who were willing to put it on the line to take the moral high-ground and to change the nature of our nation.” Carson said it made a big difference in his life. “I marveled at how Dr. King, in the face of such cruelty and hatred, could advocate love and peace.” Carson, a member of the Trump Administration, also said “I don’t agree with the President about everything that he says, or of how it’s said.” Carson adding, “I don’t even agree with everything that I’ve said. If the way you say things is so inflammatory, that people can’t hear your message, it’s not helpful.”
King Center CEO Dr. Bernice King, the youngest child of the civil rights leader and Mrs. Coretta Scott King, was the keynote speaker. She said, “we must have the right spirit and must connect with the movement that changed people and changed systems.” King added, “we’re moving people in and out of office because no matter who is in the White House, no matter who is in the State House, no matter who is in City Hall, if we don’t have the right spirit and character to tackle these issues all we’re doing is moving players on the board. God is calling for a revolution in this new year of values.”
It was a spirit-filled service too, as Ayana Gregory, daughter of late civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory, sang a medley of spirituals; and gospel artist Dottie Peoples brought the audience to its feet with her very popular song “He’s An On Time God.”