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‘Blessed are the Peace Makers’ celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.

Celebrants sing during the 2013 “Blessed be the Peace Makers” event in honor of Martin Luther King Jr at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Freeland.  - Contributed photo
Celebrants sing during the 2013 “Blessed be the Peace Makers” event in honor of Martin Luther King Jr at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Freeland.
— image credit: Contributed photo

St. Augustine’s Episcopal Peace Fellowship will sponsor the ninth annual Whidbey Island “Blessed are the Peace Makers” Martin Luther King community event next week.

The service begins at 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20, at the church, 5217 Honeymoon Bay Road, Freeland. A light lunch will precede the service at noon in the Parish Hall.

The service will feature an interactive dialog with readings from the pews by congregation members and Whidbey Island youths. This year’s topic will be the “Children’s March,” also referred to as the “Children’s Miracle” by one historian of the Civil Rights Movement.

The march occurred in May 1963, as part of the campaign to remove discriminatory segregation laws and practices in Birmingham, Ala. Birmingham was the key to ending legal segregation and discrimination against African-Americans.

Birmingham was reputedly the most rigidly segregated city in the country. A Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor,” and a police force filled with active KKK members and numerous bombings — black residents called the city “Bombingham” — maintained the area’s system of racial segregation.

A campaign, led by Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, used the weapons of nonviolent marches, civil disobedience and economic boycotts to ultimately bring an end to the brutal racist system. The goal was to fill jails with nonviolent protestors.

The effort nearly failed due to the reluctance of adults to go to jail, as they were the family breadwinners and being jailed meant the loss of employment and other reprisals. Youths were not so restricted, however, and high school age and younger people had a new job — filling jails. This was the “Children’s Miracle.”

Marching out of the 16th Street Baptist Church, the youths, maintaining a nonviolent discipline, faced with dignity fire hoses and police dogs. Through television, the nation observed both their courage and the rightness of the cause. Birmingham was eventually forced to end segregation, and the Kennedy administration was pressured into introducing to Congress what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

At the “Blessed are the Peace Makers” celebration Karl Olsen, the Trinity Lutheran Music Minister, will again lead the singing of civil rights anthems and Afro-American spirituals. The church’s youth choir will also perform.

 

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