The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day memorial service at Second Missionary Baptist Church downtown seemed to reach its peak Monday with former Missouri Rep. Lloyd Daniel.
A Democrat from Kansas City, Daniel evoked King’s legacy in the event’s keynote address by speaking of not “biting one’s tongue,” but rather speaking the truth even when it is not the popular thing to do.
“Don’t let Dr. Martin Luther King be limited to everyone just getting along,” Daniel told the crowd. “That was Rodney King, not Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King was bigger than that.”
Daniel began his speech with a warning that it would not be the standard King Day speech and that he might offend some people. Daniel chose to include politics and economics in his speech, he said, because “if you love and respect (King) you will use every opportunity.”
Daniel brought up stories of voter irregularities during the recent election as an example of democracy’s failings in the United States.
“What difference does it make if you have the right to vote if they don’t count your vote?” Daniel said.
He also compared the war in Iraq with the Vietnam War, which King so adamantly opposed in his time.
“We are Christians, most of us are, and does it bother you that over 100,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq?” Daniel asked.
Daniel said that if King did not stand up against the injustice he witnessed, including the Vietnam War, he would still be alive.
“Dr. King was a revolutionary,” Daniel said. “If he wasn’t, we wouldn’t be remembering him today.”
Mary Ratliff, president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was pleased with Monday’s event, saying that Daniel challenged the whole community.
“A challenge for the community is a wonderful thing,” Ratliff said.
Many Columbians attended the annual service in their Sunday best, including Mayor Darwin Hindman and University of Missouri System President Elson Floyd.
“People need to be reminded, and that’s why we do it,” said Marie Glaze, assistant secretary of the local NAACP.
The celebration included songs by the Second Baptist Youth Choir, a motorcade, community service awards, a fiery rendition of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and a free spaghetti meal.
Charliss Taylor, who for the past 15 years has brought her children and now her grandchildren to the King service, said that the dream has kept her coming back.
“The dream that one day we will overcome,” Taylor said, “the dream that all our children will go to school together, to live together, that our children will get everything that white children get today in 2005.”
Remembering King each year reminds the nation that the famed civil rights leader was not only someone who stood up for what he believed in, but that he stood up against enormous adversity, Daniel said.
“Dr. King gave all he could, he gave up his life,” Daniel said.
Although difficult subjects were broached Monday, hope prevailed, according to Daniel.
“We will win, we will overcome,” Daniel said. “Because the arch of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”