Almost 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s violent death, Americans hold him close.
Maybe this year closer than ever.
Freedom songs rang out from the Great Pacific Wine & Coffee Co. as more than a hundred people gathered at the popular Pendleton eatery to celebrate King’s birthday. One could almost imagine MLK stepping onstage to offer inspiration in his calm, resonant voice.
A variety of performers sang about the things closest to King’s heart. One who closed their eyes to block out the sight of all those smart phones and 2018 styles could lean into the melody and cruise back to the 60s.
“We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe
We shall overcome someday”
Event organizer Sarah Woodbury said King’s message continues to resound during this time of political polarization, social media bickering and disrespect for anyone who doesn’t share the same point of view.
“He was interested in changing the world non-violently — without shouting, without creating disunity,” Woodbury said. “He wanted to move forward and he wanted to do that without hate.”
The minister’s non-violent stance made him a target, though. He was arrested and assaulted. Someone planted an explosive device on his front porch that blew out his front windows.
“He held his course,” Woodbury said. “That’s something that is really hard to do. He said, ‘You need to love those people who hate you. We’re going to kneel, we’re going to march, but we’re not going to throw stones.’”
George Winter, who participated in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi in the mid-60s, spoke a few words to the crowd. MLK, he said, had both heart and eloquence.
“He spoke truth that was hard to speak,” Winter said. “He wanted us to share the work and start loving each other.”
For two hours, the tunes rolled, ricocheting off the GP’s brick walls and reminding everyone anew of a decade past that still offers so much.
Somewhere MLK was smiling broadly and snapping his fingers to the rhythm.
Contact Kathy Aney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 941-966-0810.