‘Hate is too great a burden to bear’
Second Baptist Church to celebrate MLK Jr.’s birthday on Sunday; Virtual service begins at 1 p.m.
A framed picture of Martin Luther King Jr. has held a prominent place in the home of Sherry Washington’s parents for almost 40 years.
Their home is nestled along 10th Avenue Southwest in Pleasant Valley, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Fort Dodge.
“They had his picture on the wall and it’s still there,” said Washington, president of the Pleasant Valley Awareness Committee. “That’s one of the first pictures I remember from my childhood. It’s still there. It’s framed with a nice light on it. That meant a lot for them coming from the south. They lived through that whole movement with him. They understood that goodness he was trying to share.”
King’s birthday, which was Friday, will be celebrated virtually on Sunday by Second Baptist Church. On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be observed throughout the country.
King, a civil rights leader in the 1950s and ’60s, is perhaps most 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.”
“My father and my mother taught myself and my two brothers about Martin Luther King at a very early age,” Washington said. “Coming from Mississippi, they understood. They taught us who he was. Their main focus was love and respect. That’s what I remember the most from their stories and what they taught us.”
King’s birthday comes at a time when the division in America is strong. Just a little over a week ago, a riot ensued at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. There, thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump marched down Pennsylvania Avenue before many of them breached Capitol security, entering the building and causing destruction. The riot led to dozens of injuries and five deaths.
Washington said the country needs to embrace King’s values more than ever.
“I think we are truly living in a very challenging time,” Washington said. “And I think it’s just sad to see. Sad to see the vision as well as some of the hate — the hate and the violence, those are the things Martin Luther King was totally the opposite of. He was not violent. He was peaceful. He did not have hate. He had love.
“And I think if you reflect back on his life and how he gave his life so this generation and others could share in that love and peace. But today, it seems as though it’s lost. However, I do have hope and confidence that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel for everyone. I just think today is a cloudy, rainy day. But at the end of the day the sun will come out.”
State Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, occasionally attends Second Baptist Church in Fort Dodge. She has been appalled at the recent violence.
“Riots are never the answer,” Meyer said. “We are a country of law. We encourage peaceful protest and expression of views. If there’s any violence involved that is completely unacceptable.”
Meyer said described King as a “peaceful unifier.”
“He was never about violence,” Meyer said. “He believed in expressing your views, but violence is never the answer. Innocent people are being killed and hurt and I’ve never condoned that. We have had a lot of violence this year, all over the country. Especially with a pandemic, that’s the last thing our country needs is more tragedy.”
The focus of the program will be, “Hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.”
“That’s a perfect quote given our climate,” Washington said.
Speakers will include: Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 21; Iowa state Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines; Sara Huddleston, the first ever Latina elected to city council in Iowa; and Rob Johnson, of Des Moines, executive minister of Second Baptist Church.
Thomas Davis Jr., a Fort Dodge native who resides in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will provide a musical selection. Davis won first place in Apollo Theater’s Top Dog contest in Harlem, New York.
“He has an amazing vocal range,” Washington said. “He can hit the high notes.”
Ebony Rice-Caston, a Loyola University Chicago graduate, will also perform a solo. She currently resides in Jackson, Mississippi.
“She is a power house,” Washington said. “Her voice is beautiful.”
Washington is also looking forward to hearing different voices speak their thoughts about King.
“We thought we would do something a little different,” she said. “We hear our Caucasian side and Black side here in Fort Dodge, but let’s spread about a little. Let’s see what someone from the Dominican Republic and someone from Mexico think. When did they first learn about Martin Luther King?
The program will also feature some poetry readings.
In light of recent world events, Washington said she’s praying for peace.
“I really pray for everyone,” Washington said. “Everyone has different opinions. Different views. Everyone has a perogative to their opinions and views. And there’s nothing wrong with that. My suggestion would be to express it without violence. I totally respect everyone’s view and their positions and their thoughts. But if there’s a nonviolent way to express those thoughts, that would be my advice.
“I understand the hurt. Not dismissing any of that. However, it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.”
Speaking through another famous King quote, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase,” Washington said those are her thoughts as we begin 2021.
“Let’s have faith,” she said. “Let’s take that first step and build that staircase together. 2020 took us down the staircase quite a bit, so we need to go up. The hate has taken us down. The violence has taken us down. My direction would be let’s try to go up.”
What: Service celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday
When: Sunday at 1 p.m.
Where: Through Second Baptist Church — virtual service
How to connect through Zoom:
Meeting ID: 833 3292 4630