Monday, January 15, 2001

King's lessons remembered

Injustices, racism remain, congregants told

By Cindy Kranz and Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Lamont Washington performs one of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's speeches at the Christ Church Cathedral Sunday.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        On the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Tristate church-goers and school children evoked the civil rights leader's memory by apologizing for past discrimination, celebrating his words and re-emphasizing his dream.

        When he delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963, the Rev. Dr. King talked of his hope for equality. Yet nearly 38 years later, racism still thrives, church-goers were reminded Sunday.

        In Greater Cincinnati, race relations are simmering over a series of perceived injustices, including the deaths of 13 African-Americans in Cincinnati Police custody since 1995. The ACLU and a local lawyer are preparing two lawsuits that allege racial profiling by city police.

        And so, if the Rev. Dr. King were alive on his 72nd birthday today, Tristate residents said Sunday, he'd still be working to fight injustice.

        “He'd still be pushing to take the ceiling off of corporate America,” said the Rev. Dr. Taylor T. Thompson, pastor of Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Forest Park. “He'd still be pressing for a quality education for everyone, for fair housing.”

        A snapshot of how the Tristate remembered the Rev. Dr. King on Sunday:

Unfinished work

               It was Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday at Quinn Chapel, where Minister Walt “Baby” Love, a nationally syndicated radio host, gave the sermon.

Minister Walt "Baby" Love
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        His show airs from 3-6 p.m. Saturdays on WAKW-FM (93.3)

        While the Rev. Love concentrated on another of his heroes, Jesus, during his passionate sermon, he talked later about what Dr. King would think of race relations today.

        “I think he'd be appalled,” said the Rev. Love, one of more than 30 pastors at First A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles. “I think he'd do the same thing that God let him do before — organize people of all races, creeds and colors.”

        Church members agreed the Rev. Dr. King's work is unfinished. No matter what you do, said Wanda Ware, 60, of Forest Park, some people are going to keep their prejudices and biases.

        “You start with our children and try to teach them that everyone is equal,” she said. “Not everyone does that. That's where prejudice mostly comes from — their parents.”

        The Rev. Dr. King would be happy with progress made in race relations, but it's still not where he envisioned it, said Erik Packard, 19, of Forest Park.

        “I think people have lost sight of his dream,” said the Clark Atlanta University sophomore.

Apologies for prejudice

               It wasn't billed as an event for the Rev. Dr. King, but it coincided with his dream of equality and respect for all people, regardless of skin color.

The Rev. Dr. Morris Hudgins of the Northern Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship participates in a reconciliation service.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        On Sunday, the First Unitarian Church in Avondale and Northern Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Wyoming acknowledged discrimination against a black Unitarian minister and his West End congregation in the early 1900s.

        The churches held a joint service to apologize to the descendants of the Rev. W.H.G. Carter, a minister who founded the Church of the Unitarian Brotherhood in Cincinnati in 1918.

        Following the service, gravestones for the reverend and his wife, Beulah, were dedicated by the Carter family and Northern Hills Fellowship at Beech Grove Cemetery, Wyoming.

        Starita Smith, a great-granddaughter of the Rev. Mr. Carter, flew in from Denton, Texas, to see the gravestone dedication and accept an apology from the congregations on behalf of her family.

        But racial reconciliation should not end at Beech Grove Cemetery, Ms. Smith said.

        “A weekend like this is just one step,” she said. “It's a start.”

"We shall overcome'

               Inside the Aronoff Center for the Arts downtown Sunday afternoon, the newest generation passed on what they have learned about the Rev. Dr. King.

        Students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grades from the Marva Collins Preparatory School in Roselawn and Silverton recited speeches and sang about non-violence, civil rights, peace, justice and freedom.

        But racism — by blacks and whites — still exists, said the kindergartners in teacher Nichole Means' class.

        “Every parent at some time faces the problem of explaining the facts of life to his child,” Brandi Kelly, 5, recited.

        But racism should not be tolerated, their speech went on, concluding: “Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”

        And the group sang: “We shall overcome ... ”


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