March, speeches celebrate legacy of civil-rights icon
“We have come a long ways, but there’s still work to be done. Yes, the glass ceiling was shattered in 2008. But it did not end racism in this country.” LLOYD BENSON SR., pastor
A Baton Rouge religious leader implored a local Martin Luther King Jr. Day audience Monday to keep striving for an end to racism and violence, as the nation prepares this August to mark the 50th anniversary of the slain civil rights leader’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C.
“Today the question is still here: What shall become of the dream?” Lloyd Benson Sr., international prelate of the World Link of Churches & Ministries Inc. and pastor of Cathedral World Worship Center on McCann Drive, told about 300 people at Mount Zion First Baptist Church on East Boulevard.
Following the commemoration program at the church, the crowd marched with a police escort up Government Street to the Freedom Monument at the Baton Rouge River Center.
This year, the national holiday honoring King coincided with the public swearing-in of President Barack Obama for a second term in office. Benson cited Obama’s election four years ago as the first black U.S. president as a major milestone.
“We have come a long ways, but there’s still work to be done,” he said. “Yes, the glass ceiling was shattered in 2008. But it did not end racism in this country.”
Nor did it put a stop to the violence that resulted in 83 homicides in Baton Rouge in 2012, Benson said. Noting that King was a staunch advocate of nonviolence, he called for an end to the violence and said it is time to “bring Dr. King’s dream back into our lives, our neighborhoods and our schools.”
Benson said, “He (King) rose above violence. He hated violence. Enough is enough. Accept nothing less than peace on our streets and peace in the whole world.”
King, who was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in April 1968, “accomplished more in his 39 years than most people accomplish in a century,” he said. “We need to keep marching toward the dream. We need to embrace the legacy of Dr. King.”
At LSU, members of black fraternities and sororities, and other community members, gathered on campus Monday night as part of a candlelight march in honor of King.
The group of about 100 gathered at the LSU Memorial Tower and listened to speeches and prayers from representatives of Alpha Phi Alpha and Omega Psi Phi fraternities and Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
From there, carrying battery-powered candles, the group walked to Broussard Hall, singing such songs as “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “This Little Light of Mine.”
Among those who attended the program held at Mount Zion, were Angela Fulton, of Memphis, and her husband. They were in Louisiana’s capital city to visit their daughter, and all three participated in the March for Peace.
“We wanted this visit to be meaningful. We wanted it (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) to be more than just a sleep-in day,” Fult on, 53, said as she walked up Government Street behind a woman with a sign that read, “Martin Luther King: American HERO.”
“I appreciated seeing the city come together,” Fulton said. “It was good to see so many young people.”
The marchers sang “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine” and “We shall overcome” as they made their way to the River Center, where King’s entire “I Have a Dream” speech was read.
Mike Henry, associate pastor of Life Cathedral Worship Center in Gonzales, said King was a role model for him.
“Dr. King was an example to me. Dr. King’s approach is something that inspired me,” he said outside the River Center. “The next generation doesn’t really understand the dream of Dr. King,” Henry added. “The work must continue.”
Rene’ Brown, pastor of Mount Zion First Baptist Church, said King “did so much for this country and so much for this world.”
“Dr. Martin Luther King chose to wage peace, and it cost him his life,” observed the Rev. Robin McCullough-Bade with the Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge.
Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Baha’i prayers were offered at the church program.
The commemoration was organized by the Baton Rouge NAACP.
Advocate staff writer Robert Stewart contributed to this article.