EAST ST. LOUIS — A throng of people from the greater East St. Louis community came out Monday New Life Community Church to celebrate the birth, life, work and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The dream that Dr. King delivered 50 years ago, in August 1963, is still very much inspirational to millions of people, including many in the metro-east.
Those who attended the celebration honoring him, which has been made a national holiday, watched a video of the now-famous speech as images flashed on the screen of people who helped continue his work, including Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, Shirley Chisolm, Rosa Parks, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr., Colin Powell and others.
Their work continued the battle against oppression and prejudice. The video showed the struggle civil rights leaders made in their half-century fight, including integration of schools, restaurants, lunch counters, and the opportunity for black people to keep their seats on busses. The video showed blacks being drug off by white police officers as they marched in protest and stood up for their rights. While the video played, the Negro National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," played in the background.
The video ended showing the inauguration of the first African-American president, Barack Obama. This drew thunderous applause from the crowd.
"We're here today to celebrate a life well lived and a legacy that yet lives on," speaker Chris McIntosh said.
Arthur Culver, superintendent of East St. Louis District 189, said, "My heart was thumping with a lot of pride as the students from this church performed. We have some very intelligent, very capable students," he said. He encouraged the community to get behind the children to help them achieve their goals.
Culver said the community is better off because of King's non-violent approach to change. Then, he talked of the 40 days of non-violence campaign that East St. Louis is embarking on beginning Saturday.
"It's well overdue in this community. Forty days can become 40 months, then 40 years, then 40 decades, but it has to start with a dream."
Kendall Granger, pastor of New life Community Church, 1919 State St., was the keynote speaker. He provided a road map for the faithful on how they could turn their dreams into reality.
He said they first must have a dream. Granger said there are three kinds of people -- those with no dreams, those with low dreams and those with big dreams. If you are the one with big dreams, the first thing you have to do us "open your mind to God" because "those who trust God's wisdom are safe."
Then he said "Do some research "Every prudent man acts out of knowledge," he said, quoting Proverbs 2:6.
The third thing, Granger said, was "Start asking advice because the more advice you get the more likely you are to win."
And, he said, evaluate the cost. Granger said it's foolish to find out after you have done something, how much it will cost. Identify the plan they will follow to make their dreams a reality and lastly, he told them they must "do it now."
"And stay clear of anyone who is not traveling the path you are on," h said.
Tiarra Adams, who came to the event with her aunt, she Granger's words were "positive and encouraging."
Another spectator, Decimal Jackson, said of King, "He saved us from not being able to go to hotels and being able to sit in restaurants with white people. He saved us from being separated from white people and from being called Negroes."
His grandfather, Allen Duncan, a District 189 employee, said Granger's message was "Faith without action is dead."
Darian Jones said he was glad his aunt brought him to New Life.
"The message was a very good one. There can be an even better nation if equality is first and foremost on our minds. We have to go to school and learn. Education is very important. And, we have to walk away from negative things from friends, and family members."
Carl Wright said he took from Granger's message that "We have got to trust and be inspired. We have to do something. We have to step out on faith, believe, and make it happen. We have to trust that God will be with us."