‘Hero of the time’
Community gathers to remember MLK Jr.
The principles that Martin Luther King Jr. held so dearly were on display at the Coppin Chapel AME Church Sunday afternoon.
More than 100 people packed the church, located at 329 First Ave. S., to enjoy a community dinner with each other while sharing stories of hope and positivity.
“Martin Luther King Jr. stood for unity, peace, and nonviolence and not to look at the color of skin when we come together,” said The Rev. Carolyn Stevenson.
King is famous for his “I have a dream” speech, in which he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Stevenson thanked Sherry Washington for her work in organizing the event.
“I thank Sherry Washington for all she does here in Fort Dodge,” Stevenson said.
Washington, who has been a longtime volunteer at the church, was pleased to see such a diverse audience.
“Everyone here is so special to us,” Washington said.
State Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, spoke during the open mic portion of the festivities.
“As I travel around, there are a lot of people doing positive things,” Miller said. “We just need to keep on doing this — communities coming together. I think the negativity is pushing people to do more positive things.”
She said just because some racist comments are more public now, doesn’t mean more people are racist.
“I’ve been around long enough to know that racism has always been there,” she said. “With our current political situation, people are saying whatever they want, but they always felt that way.”
She said America is different in that most riots stem from racial tensions.
“In other countries, people riot because of food or politics or something else,” Miller said. “In America, we are rioting because of race. I look forward to the day when there is nothing left to riot about.”
She added, “But I really do think things are getting better.”
The Rev. Pamela Thompkins, of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Fort Dodge, recalled where she was when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
“We were at a high school musical,” she said. “When we got out of the musical they said Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated and we thought that can’t be true.”
On April 4, 1968, King was shot to death by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had gone to help black sanitation workers who were on strike. He was 39 years old.
“By the end of the night the National Guard was out,” she said. “Everything was blocked off. It was almost like being on a reservation. It was a horrific time, but with it a lot of good things came.”
According to Thompkins, the evidence of that is seeing the progress that has been made socially.
“You build on the positives and you teach your children to cherish the things they do have,” she said. “That things we have were not easy to get.”
She added, “You have to inspire in our younger people to have dreams and not let anything distract you. Go for your goals.”
Roger Natte, Fort Dodge historian, said he couldn’t remember exactly where he was when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, but that he was “shocked.”
“He was really the hero of the time,” Natte said. “He represented what people should be. He was one of the most wonderful people.”