Here's what I wrote about the service at Beulah A.M.E. Zion Church on Monday, which was after the breakfast at the high school:
BRISTOL – The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous dream of a time of justice and equality was a great idea and something America should have followed decades ago, said the Rev. John Walker.
But instead, the nation slipped into slumber, said Walker, of St. James Missionary Baptist Church in New Britain, the featured speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day service at Beulah A.M.E. Zion Church in Forestville Monday.
“It’s time to wake up,” said Walker.
Walker said King, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, led a revolution that changed the American South, but also the whole world.
King’s dream was “rooted deeply in the American dream,” said Walker, that everyone should have the same rights and privileges of health care, education, decent housing and a fair shake from the justice system.
We’re not there yet, Walker said, and there’s plenty of blame to go around.
Blacks have suffered indignities, but they share some responsibility for their own lack of progress, he said.
“We’ve had great opportunities, but we’ve wasted nearly 30 years,” said Walker, who railed on black-on-black crime, teen pregnancy, rampant divorce, drug use and more, calling on mothers with a Section 8 certificate not to allow a lazy boyfriend to move in and jeopardize her housing arrangement.
“You don’t have to be in the gutter anymore,” Walker said. “You can pick yourself up. You can dust yourself off.”
Walker preached that having faith in God like King did, and in oneself can bring education, money and an apartment not connected to public housing.
The spirited service at Beulah, complete with rousing musical offerings from the Beulah A.M.E. Zion Mass Choir and from the St. James Missionary Baptist Choir, drew about 75 people to the church on Circle Street.
Beulah’s pastor, the Rev. Patricia Flowers, said if King were alive today, he’d be on a plane to Haiti, offering help to the people devastated by last week’s earthquake.“They’re our brothers and they’re our sisters,” said Flowers.
City Councilor Cliff Block filled in at the service for Mayor Art Ward. Block told listeners that he was there as “your friend and neighbor,” but said when he agreed to take Ward’s place, the mayor neglected to mention that he’d be called upon to speak.
Block said he’d be more comfortable singing a song than doing any public speaking, but hailed King as “a man taken from us too soon” who started a movement that changed the world.