By Dezimon Alicea, Gary Crusader
Marvin Gaye’s record hit song “What’s Going On,” played as the background for the day on my radio as I pulled into the West Side School parking lot. This song also serves as the backdrop to racial tensions across the U.S. currently in 2017. Cars filled that lot, as people arrived for service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Our nation’s first Black president is making his transition out of the White House, yet the relations between whites and Blacks are no different than they were in the 1960’s during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
During the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous, “I Have A Dream” speech that shaped modern America. His transformative words were ranked as the top speech of the 20th Century. And one can understand why, during the course of his oration Dr. King spoke to the racism that was still prevalent, even after the Emancipation Proclamation was passed in 1863. King pulled on the heartstrings and consciousness of the more than 250,000 people in attendance; some white and many Black.
On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., King rang out the now famous words; “I Have A Dream.” The speech and persona of Dr. King were so impactful that they are still celebrated today. The man is celebrated, as well as the dream he gave insight to during the course of his speech. Inside of the West Side Theatre Guild, on the same stage where Mrs. King stood in 2004, men and women joined together in honor of a man and his dream. The 48th Annual Ecumenical Service honored the legacy of Dr. King and saw people of different ages reflecting on his efforts of equality for people of color.
Among those in attendance were Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Indiana Congressman Pete Visclosky, Eddie Melton, Senator of the 3rd District of Indiana, Rev. Dwight Gardner, Pastor of the historic Trinity Baptist Church in Gary and General Chairperson of the Ecumenical Committee. Students were in attendance as well. For most of them, they received a free day, since schools were closed in observance of Dr. King’s birthday. Before 1983, students would not have had this opportunity. Thanks to the persistence and diligence of Representative Katie Hall, Dr. King’s birthday became a national holiday.
Having this day turned into a national holiday was to help younger generations remember the work of Dr. King. Those sentiments could be heard within the sermon of Pastor Cudjoe, the keynote speaker of the day’s event. While speaking with Pastor Cudjoe after the service he said that “We’ve forgotten some of the stories of Dr. King, we’ve forgotten some of his speeches, and we’ve forgotten some of the sacrifices he’s made.” He also went on to say that we must continue building on the foundation which Dr. King made.
It’s ironic, that in just a few more days, we will see the first Black president leave the oval office. But, it was just 54 years ago the very idea of a Black man serving in that high of a political office was just a dream. Rev. Dwight Gardner said before dismissing the people that the choir would usually sing, “We Shall Overcome” as the final song, but this year they chose to sing “Ain’t Gon Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” as people exited the building. Maybe that decision was made because in some people’s eyes, we have overcome. Whatever the reason, the spirit of triumph could be felt. As students left, there was a sense of remembering and reinventing. Remembering the past and reinventing their futures. Because of the strides of Dr. King and so many others, becoming President of the United States can not only be a dream, but it can become a constant reality.