Religion and politics meshed seamlessly this week at the Howard County commemorative birthday celebration for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The event embraced the theme that King's political vision came not from man but from God, a God who asks that we treat all people fairly regardless of race, religion or economic status.
The program, "The Dream, the Dreamer and You," paid tribute to King - and to God - through prayer, song, dance, awards to those carrying on King's legacy and a keynote address by Todd D. Wallace of Fox 5 news. About 200 people went to the Long Reach High School auditorium Sunday for the celebration sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Howard County Holiday Commission.
John Taylor's gospel rendition of the Lord's Prayer, followed by the Voices of Inspiration of St. John's Baptist Church singing "Lord, I will lift mine eyes to the hills, knowing my help is coming from you," set the tone for Wallace's address.
"What would he think when we constantly refer to him as a dreamer?" asked Wallace about King, after carrying a Bible with him to the podium and praying that his words be from God when he spoke. "Instead of dream, I prefer the word vision."
Wallace tied King's vision of social and racial justice to the visions God gave biblical figures such as Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Jesus.
"Wasn't it vision that made all those saints in the Bible? Wasn't it the Lord who gave Jesus a vision?" Wallace asked a receptive and enthusiastic audience.
Wallace quoted King's widow, Coretta Scott King, who said, "It was as if the kingdom of God appeared on hand" during King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech on the Mall in Washington. But he added, "She said it only lasted a moment."
Challenging the audience to continue King's legacy, Wallace spoke of the "nightmare of too much violence in our culture" and "the nightmare that young African-American men have a greater chance of going to jail than to college." Pointing to Proverbs 29:18, "Without a vision, the people will perish," Wallace urged the audience to continue to do its part to help those who need a hand.
Wallace then called on a King sermon based on the Book of Mark, in which disciples James and John ask to sit at Jesus' right and left in the kingdom of heaven. "Jesus transformed that situation," said Wallace, by teaching his disciples that "servanthood [is] the measure of greatness." Wallace challenged listeners to follow King by working for true peace, which he characterized as "shalom" or "wholeness."
"I wish that all people acknowledged the Lord and his goodness and mercy. This program affords me the opportunity to present myself as a journalist, but more importantly as a Christian," Wallace said later. "It's important to encourage and inspire the adults of today and the children of tomorrow to embrace Dr. King's vision and work together toward achieving it."
After Wallace's address, the young Dancers of Inspiration of St. John's Baptist Church performed to "Let Us Worship" and "I'm Glad to Be Alive." When a problem with the sound system was resolved, Angela Clay began to sing: "You'll see with spirit eyes what others miss" and received a standing ovation at the song's conclusion.
The Commission Award was given to Columbia resident Emma Byrne for her consistent dedication to peace and community building.