King’s work unfinished

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January 26, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Service features songs, message

If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he’d likely be disappointed, Barbara Miniefee contends.
The late civil rights leader fought, and ultimately died, in his pursuit of equality and economic justice, Miniefee told a gathering Monday.
Miniefee, pastor at Ward Chapel A.M.E., shared her message during a passionate sermon at Monday’s King celebration at Ward Chapel.
Still today, Americans — in particular black Americans — are plagued by poverty and racism, she said, and in many cases, the economic justice has grown even more out of balance.
“Statistics tell us that the gap between the poor and the rich today is wider than it was in the Depression era,” she said.
And now, 40 years after the Civil Rights Movement, African-Americans still typically earn less than their white counterparts, they die earlier and are more likely to wind up in prison.
“A young black man is still more likely to wind up in prison than to graduate from college,” Miniefee said.
Miniefee recounted King’s famous “I Have A Dream Speech” delivered at his 1963 March on Washington.
Miniefee watched King’s speech on television after she had completed a similar walk in Detroit as part of a contingent led by another civil rights leader, The Rev. C.L. Franklin. Rev. Franklin, she noted, was also the father of legendary “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin.
Miniefee was 18 at the time of King’s speech.
“It was a confusing time for me, as an 18-year-old African-American,” she said.
King’s words, she said, marked the first time she saw real hope for equality for blacks.
“It doesn’t take his birthday for those words to ring in my heart,” Miniefee said.
Miniefee noted that King also was a pastor. It was a challenge from God that gave King strength to withstand beatings, jailings, being called names and spat upon.
“Dr. King was a man of God,” she said. “He had to be to have strength.”
King’s speeches still resonate with Americans today, Miniefee said, because of their timeless message: that justice for all is still attainable.
Now it’s up to others to pick up the baton.
“We have dropped the ball,” she said. “We have sat back and only worked toward getting things” instead of continuing the fight for equality.
She also challenged Christians to follow King’s words in praise of God.
“Through our voice, Christians can turn King’s words into action,” she said. “As long as there is breath in my body, I cannot sit back and complain,” she vowed.

THE SERVICE featured words of praise from the Rev. Phil Honeycutt, as well as The Rev. Lloyd Houk, who sang his sermon through the song “Whatever It Takes.”
Iola Mayor Bill Maness also recounted King’s life as a minister, recounting a little-known King sermon about “The Drum Major Instinct,” in which man’s desire for attention may affect his desire to serve and help others.
Iolans Steve Orcutt and Pat Pulley collaborated on the gospel standard “Amazing Grace” before Pulley closed the singing portion with a powerful rendition of Simon and Garfunkle’s hit “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.”

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