PRINCETON — Members of the First Christian Church and Open Prairie United Church of Christ came together this year to put on what is considered to be Princeton’s first observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
A small celebration was held Monday morning in the Prouty Building, where city officials, residents and community leaders gathered to hear readings and speeches on King, and sang along to inspirational music about overcoming adversity and empowerment.
Princeton Mayor Keith Cain gave a welcome from the city of Princeton and spoke briefly about the accomplishments King made in his lifetime.
“Many of the freedoms we enjoy today are due to the efforts of Dr. King,” he said. “What started as a protest by one person, expanded into a hard fought victory for many.”
Looking back, Cain placed himself in high school when news was flying through the country about the protests led by King in the mid 1960s.
“He stuck to the lesson of the Bible, and also believed in the powers handed down by America’s founding fathers,” he said. “He didn’t try to go against government. He knew what government was about, and he knew what was handed down, and that’s what he always stood up for.”
The Rev. Dwight Bailey of First Christian Church pointed out the powers of men and women, who have held themselves accountable, calling into question the ways of life that don’t seem fitting.
“As I think about Dr. King and all the accomplishments he’s made, the most important thing that stands out to me is that he approached this process, not with a sense of aggression, not a sense of ‘I’m going to make you do it.’ It was a sense of, ‘I’m calling on the best in you to understand what justice is about, and what justice feels like, and on the opposite side, what injustice feels like and what injustice has done to us.’”
Before Barry Mayworm, a committeeman of the event, introduced readers, who spoke on King’s writings of the triple evils: War, Poverty and Racism, he reminded all who he believed King was.
“He was admired and loved by many, which got a movement going, but he was also despised and defeated by many, because he was calling for significant change,” he said.
To wrap up the event, the Rev. Mary Gay McKinney of Open Prairie UCC shared a moving story from her childhood that exposed her to the dealings of racism in the South.
Her grandmother had an African American yardman who brought his son to work one day. The son and McKinney were out playing on her tricycle in the front yard.
“Until my grandmother looked out the front door and said, ‘Mary Gay get in here right this minute,’” she said.
Her grandmother did not want any of her friends, members of her garden club or people from her church to drive by and see what was considered “a shameful act.”
“I’m tempted to be ashamed of that, but I also have to tell you that I’ve been heartened because I’ve been looking at the theology and the words just recently of Dr. King. I think if he were here today and heard my story, he would put his arm around me and say, ‘That’s OK,’” she said. “We can come together, and we can move beyond that ... Racism affects us all, but today is the day to say it’s not where we want to be, and we can move beyond that.”
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