The local community took part in several events Monday to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The 2013 Commemorative and Ecumenical Service was held at Springfield Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The pastor is the Rev. Roger L. Drake. Ambrose B. King Jr., coordinator of the event, thanked the church for always allowing the public to gather there each year for the service.
Before the program began, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church of Tifton mass choir sang a beautiful song selection that brought the audience to its feet. Also, the presentation of flags was done by the Turner County High School ROTC Color Guard, commanded by Maj. Reginald Gavin, as the crowd sang “America the Beautiful.” Everyone remained standing to sing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”
Local community leaders Tifton Mayor Jamie Cater, the Rev. Bruce Sack, Pastor Samuel L. Pridgon, Pastor Janet Sack and the Rev. Sam Rogers spoke words of faith and encouragement.
After stating that the choir was fantastic, Cater asked the crowd, “Isn’t it a great day?”
He said he has marched every year in the annual MLK March and Parade since he has been the mayor of Tifton. As he continued to speak, he noticed Vice Mayor Johnny Terrell sitting in the crowd.
“I see my favorite friend...,” Cater stated, smiling.
He noted that Terrell is the first black vice mayor. He added, “He has hit the ground running.”
Cater further stated, “God bless this establishment. Thank you all for allowing me to be a part of this.”
He said he loves Dr. King, who represented love.
“It’s all about love,” he stated.
Cater also thanked the Turner County High School ROTC Color Guard and local musicians for doing a wonderful job.
Sack then read from the Book of Romans, Chapter 13. He stated, “Dr. King was this.” He said Dr. King had a vision and he understood this passage. He said Dr. King knew that nonviolence was the way to changing things.
“His efforts did not go unnoticed,” he stated.
He added that 50 years have come and gone since the days when Dr. King walked the streets of Birmingham, Ala.
Sack stated that everyone is called by God to seek what is holy in His sight and to not conform to the ways of society.
“Our ruler is Jesus Christ,” he said.
He ended his speech my quoting Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
Pridgon brought the crowd to its feet with a powerful and spiritual speech. The words “I’m determined to be somebody someday” and “Rest if you must, but don’t you quit” rang out in the church.
He stated, “Be the best at whatever you are.”
Janet asked the crowd to think back to their earliest memories. She said she remembers being three years old and what it was like growing up in Baltimore in 1968 during the riots.
She stated that she and her siblings were raised to not be prejudice; they were raised to be a child of God.
She stated that her father was the same age as Dr. King. She said she couldn’t imagine being a middle aged man at that time, but her father was a follower of God.
“I can’t imagine what it could have been like to stand up for injustice during the 1950s and 1960s,” Janet stated. “I believe it’s our call and responsibility to raise our children to stand up for injustice today.”
She said, “We should carry on Dr. King’s legacy and follow God’s will today.”
Rogers told the choir, “You blessed my soul.”
He stated that they blessed him with their laughter earlier before the program began.
He spoke about growing up during the 1950s and 1960s when blacks and whites were segregated. He noted that he was a freshman at Emory University during the case of Brown v. Board of Education.
Rogers talked about blacks being turned away because they couldn’t swim with whites and other similar incidents and how the Civil Rights Movement began to change all of that.
“Whatever generation you grew up in, the fight continues,” he said.
Adding to what Pridgon said earlier, Rogers stated, “Folks, we are somebody today...we can’t let anyone else define that. We are somebody regardless. In this fight that still goes on, Dr. King would be in the forefront.”
Rogers also talked about the church. He ended his speech by saying, “Dr. King loved the church. Don’t forget the power of your church.”
Also, Tifton native and international opera tenor singer Travis Pratt sang during the program.
The annual MLK Breakfast, sponsored by PLIGHT, Inc., was held early Monday morning at the Leroy Rogers Senior Center. This year’s speaker was the Rev. Patrick Ford.
To contact reporter Latasha Everson, call 382-4321.