For St. Augustine’s parishioner Dick Hall, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. have remained relevant ever since his central role in the Civil Right Movement.
Today is no different.
As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, South Whidbey is readying itself for numerous events celebrating Dr. King’s work, values and impact. In some of the programs, King’s work with the Civil Rights Movement will be connected to the current state of American politics.
“Martin Luther King Jr. is as relevant today as any time before because we’re facing efforts to take away certain rights,” Hall, organizer of a program at St. Augustine’s, said. “Voter suppression, incarceration of people of color and white nationalism are all seen today. These things predate the current administration, so it’s important to remember his impact.”
Although MLK Day falls on Monday, Jan. 15, most of the events are slated for the weekend.
Whidbey Island Center for the Arts is hosting a performance at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 12 that combines theater with archival film, called “The Right to Dream.” It’s a performance from award-winning Seattle “historical theater troupe,” Living Voices, that tells an African-American student’s coming of age story in Mississippi in the 1950s and 1960s. The program discusses civil rights issues and gives audiences perspective on how the fight against prejudice shaped American history.
Living Voices was recently named the 2017 Education Award Winner at the Governor’s Arts & Heritage Awards.
“We believe there is a compelling reason to offer programming that highlights the fight against racism with a goal to raise America above intolerance,” WICA Programming Director Deana Duncan said. “This work is important because it has the opportunity to inspire multi-cultural awareness as well as introduce students and audiences to a living history.”
St. Augustine-In-The-Woods, in Freeland, is hosting its 13th annual MLK Day event “Blessed are the Peace Makers” at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14. Every year, organizers from the church’s Episcopal Peace Fellowship try to connect King’s words to current events. The theme this year is “Effective Resistance: from Rosa Parks to the Women’s March.” The program showcases interactive readings reflecting on the history of nonviolent civil disobedience to “current threats to our national values of justice, inclusion and multiculturalism,” according to Hall.
Trinity Lutheran Church Minister of Music Karl Olsen is planning to perform gospel music and movements in the program. A speech from New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu will also be read; Landrieu gave the speech against white supremacy as his city removed Confederate statues.
Hall recognizes the topics St. Augustine’s is covering are highly politicized, but he claims inaction and silence is equally as political as speaking out about them.
“To not speak out or to not participate is being political,” Hall said. “America’s original sin is slavery and the difficulties our country still faces because of that.”
“We want to showcase the history of nonviolent Christian-based movements of disobedience.”
On MLK Day, Whidbey Island Friends Meeting is showing a video of King’s speech delivered from Riverside Church, “Beyond Vietnam.” King denounced the Vietnam War in the speech in what was “one of the most powerful talks he gave, according to organization member Tom Ewell. The Quaker organization shows the footage annually. The viewing is slated for 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist meeting house in Freeland.
Ewell says King represents the prophetic tradition of the Judeo-Christian, in that he speaks “above the political frame” to name things that are wrong in society. Ewell acknowledges it’s tough for churches to engage in conversations surrounding war and poverty, but adds that King embodied the effort to discuss these issues in a civil, nonviolent way.
“Part of the Martin Luther King Jr. legacy is currently being expressed in addressing rights for minority groups, particularly economic rights,” Ewell said. “It’s important to continue this legacy in the search for equality.”