Martin Luther King day was Monday. An annual celebration is held on the downtown plaza, preceding by a a ceremony at the Martin Luther King Garden nearby. The crowd on the plaza was huge, the largest that I have seen.
12 statements by Martin Luther King Jr. you won’t see conservatives post on Facebook today. Today the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday was celebrated. Here in Gainesville we had a ceremony on the downtown, which is called the Bo Diddly Coomunity Plaza after rock and roll pioneer Bo Diddley, who was born in and lived much of his life in the area. The event, which drew a very large crowd, featured speakers, among them local politicians, the awarding of scolariships, and music. The program concluded with the crowd being led in singing the Negro National Anthem, the Hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (a tradition African-American spiritual). The powerful lyrics, written by James Weldon Johnson, were included in the program:
“Lift every voice and sing till earth and heaven ring. ring with the harmonies of Liberty; let our rejoicing rise High as list’ning skies, Let it resound loud as the roaring sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has tought us, Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us, Facing the rising sun of our new day Begun, let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod, Felt in the days when Hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet, Come to the place for which our fathers sighed? We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered; Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way, thou who hast by Thy might led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, Our God, where we met Thee, Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine Of the world, we forget Thee; Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand. True to our God, True to our native land.”
(The music is by John Rosamond Johnson)
After the anthem was sung we left the Plaza and marched east to Waldo Road and then northeast up Waldo Road to the Martin Luther King Center. The throng filled the street. Two UU contingents we present: a few members of the UUFG and a few members of the “Phoenix Rising” split off group, one end of whose banner I held up through most of the march.
It was tremendous experience. The MLK holiday is definitely on the upswing, perhaps boosted by the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner cases. The one thing I was disappointed about was that so few tables were at they event: just a few businesses, people registering voters and the Civic Media Center tabled the event. The MLK observance should be teeming with tables from all progressive groups, political parties, and churches as the Earth Day festival and the Gay Pride march are. Perhaps one day it will be. In the meantime I will conclude with the words (I Dream A World) of the August bard Langston Hughes, one the best this country has ever had:
“I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such a world I dream, my world!”
It is observed tomorrow, but the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, an American hero, was born on this day in 1929. On this important anniversary we at the UUFG honored King with a service dedicated to civil rights. Dr. Zohara Simmons, a veteran of the 1965 March in Selma, and Esther Wallace spoke. They both received standing ovations.
After the service, we had a discussion about the move “Selma” which a group of us saw yesterday. Several in the discussion group, including Dr. Zohara Simmons, who led the discussion, were veterans of the sixties civil rights movement. They thought all the portrayals of the African-American marchers were spot on save that of James Forman, who was portrayed by a man much younger than he was. He was a member of the SCLC and was older than many of the other marchers.
The film was also praised for portraying many African-American women who were in the movement, but faulted for not showing them speaking. Dr. Simmons stressed the importance of Annie Cooper, the woman portrayed powerfully by Oprah Winfrey. Cooper bravely tried to register to vote and was jailed for punching the sheriff. She lived to be 100. Simmons also pointed out that Amelia Boynton, portrayed powerfully by Lorraine Toussaint, is now 103 and still has a sharp mind.
A civil rights veterans who was at UF in the ’60s pointed out that a march occurred in St. Augustine in 1964. Those marchers were also beaten up by police. When the city celebrated it 400th anniversary in 1965, activists tried to remind people of what had happen the year before.