By Thomas Moran | Staff Writer
A large congregation of students, professors and others gathered Wednesday night to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Baylor hosted “The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Community Reconciliation Service Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of MLK’s Assassination” in Powell Chapel in Truett Seminary.
As an outspoken activist and Baptist minister, King was a leader of the American civil rights movement. Though primarily remembered for his actions as a civil rights leader, King also used peaceful protest for the economically disadvantaged and the victims of other forms of injustice.
King was assassinated on the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing in the balcony of his motel room in Memphis where he had traveled to support a workers’ strike.
Journalism professor Robert Darden has studied and written about civil rights movement music and African-American gospel music throughout his career.
With his non-violent approach, the power of the black church, the support of the labor movement and the power of music behind him, King was able to extend his reach and prompt unprecedented progress across the nation, Darden said.
“Those four things made him unparalleled,” Darden said. “They gave him the power, spiritual, emotional, philosophical and political, that nobody before or since has really had.”
Baylor President Dr. Linda Livingstone was not able to attend the event but prepared a video to be played at the beginning of the event to welcome attendees and explain the significance of remembering King and his legacy. Representatives from several organizations also welcomed attendees, including Dr. Peaches Henry with the Waco NAACP chapter.
The service was divided into two portions: one portion remembering King’s life and the other his lasting legacy.
The commemoration of King’s life included speeches from leaders of various organizations and readings from some of King’s most beloved speeches, including “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top,” recited by Rev. Kerry Burkley.
Later in the service, some of King’s favorite songs were performed. “Buked and Scorned,” popularized by African-American singer Odetta, and “Trouble of the World,” by Mahalia Jackson, were performed among other songs that King appreciated.
Chicago graduate student Joslyn Henderson led the congregation in several songs throughout the service.
“Music was one of the things that he used to encourage himself,” Henderson said. “An old story is told about how he came home from one of the marches, a hard day, and he called Mahalia Jackson on the phone and, to make it to the next day, he asked her to sing “Precious Lord,” and that gave him the strength to keep going and keep fighting and keep pushing for this thing we call equality.”
The commemoration of King’s life was concluded with a song and prayer from his fellow Alpha Phi Alpha brothers, who sang their fraternity song and prayer in his memory.
Director of Multicultural Affairs Pearl Beverly opened King’s legacy commemoration by leading the choral group “Portraits” in songs about peace and love, King’s core messages.
Student Body President Amy Dickerson, who is currently enrolled in a semester-long course about King’s life and legacy, commemorated the civil rights activist’s life. The course involved a weeklong trip to several of King’s most important life events including Selma, Ala., Little Rock, Ark. and Memphis.
“We will never know what more Dr. King could have done in his lifetime or why his life was taken so early, but we do know his was a legacy of peace,” Dickerson said. “Dr. King led our nation at that time as he continues to lead our nation today … So let us find peace and hope in the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but let us also resolve to continue to fight against hate and injustice where they still exist in our society.”
Rev. Bryan Dalco gave a closing speech regarding the lasting legacy of King and, extending King’s own message, called attendees and listeners to rebuke complacency and partake in King’s legacy.
“He lived the legacy of those that came before him,” Dalco said. “The legacy of Moses. The legacy of Gandhi. He lived the legacy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How do we live this legacy?”
Henderson led the congregation in the closing song, “Oh, Freedom,” which was premiered during King’s March on Washington.