Three-day event to mark 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King assassination
By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is partnering with the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. for a truth and racial justice initiative. A three-day gathering called “Unite to End Racism” will be held Tuesday through Thursday in Washington, D.C. The event marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis.
“It’s a come one, come all opportunity. Children, students, elders, Presbyterians, anyone who wants to address racism in this country,” said Nora Leccese, associate for domestic poverty and environmental issues with the Office of Public Witness. “We are hopeful for a good turnout.”
The event begins Tuesday with an ecumenical worship service in the Orthodox Tradition at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, followed on Wednesday by the “ACT to End Racism” rally on the National Mall. It concludes Thursday with a national day of advocacy and action.
“Ecumenism has been waning in Christian circles over the past few years and I think the National Council of Churches wants to bring it to the forefront so people will talk about how Christian churches can combine efforts to make a difference in the world,” said the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, OPW director. “I think another goal is to demonstrate leadership in the D.C. area, especially with all of the political disjointedness and political wrangling going on and to show some unity and focus on justice issues.”
Reflecting on King’s assassination, Hawkins believes a lot of progress has been made in civil rights since 1968, especially in education.
“There was a time when African-Americans attended historically black colleges in order to get a good college education. But now they’re getting degrees at major universities,” he said. “The culture has changed radically. It is no longer considered a good thing to be labeled a white supremacist. When I grew up, people didn’t have a problem saying they were racists. Culture has shifted its attitude towards race.”
Despite the progress, both Hawkins and Leccese say more needs to be done.
“It’s been 50 years but the call to end racism is even more urgent today. I think our failure to complete the vision of the civil rights movement is an ongoing mandate for those of us organizing now for equality and justice,” said Leccese. “There is some deep urgency with the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death that we have still not completed the dream.”
Organizers are hoping for a large turnout this week.
“Within Presbyterian circles in the D.C. area, churches are aware of the activities and I believe we will have a sizable presence at this event,” said Hawkins. “We are a part of National Council of Churches and Presbyterians are devoted to ecumenism and a have long history of engagement.”
Click here for more information on the D.C. event.
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