Mission of NAACP — and Martin Luther King Jr. — celebrated during tribute at Bethel AME Church

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Members of the First Baptist Church choir sing during Monday's annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. | Photo courtesy of Lisa Wigoda

QUINCY — The message remains the same.

Annice Mallory, president of the Quincy area chapter of the NAACP, spoke Monday morning of the goals, messages and ideologies of the late Martin Luther King Jr. Her words were laced with emotion and dealt with ending racism and promoting equality.

And above all else?

“Having injustice become justice,” she said.

Mallory was one of several speakers and entertainers whose words and talents provided a fitting accent to the local Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, an annual tribute hosted this year by Bethel AME Church at 905 Oak, which will celebrate its 175th anniversary later this year.

Mallory’s keynote address was centered around the the 1909 founding of the NAACP, which was triggered by a public lynching of a Black man a year earlier in Springfield, Ill.

“It was a terrible thing,” Mallory said. “At that time, lynchings were public spectacles and were especially prominent in the southern states.”

Mallory said that particular tragedy in Springfield helped spread the word of a need for a movement like the NAACP. By Feb. 12, 2009 — the birth date of former president and emancipator Abraham Lincoln — that organization had become a reality. The NAACP’s goal was to help end the “terrorism of Black people,” Mallory said.

The NAACP’s ongoing mission today is much like it always has been — to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.

That always was the mission of King.

“We are celebrating a great man,” Mallory told those who filled the pews of Bethel AME.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is always celebrated on the third Monday of January, even though he was born on Jan. 15. If alive today, the civil rights leader would be 93.

King delivered the famous “I Have A Dream” speech at age 34 and won the Nobel Peace Prize a year later. He was assassinated at age 39 in 1968.

In a speech delivered in Memphis one day before his assassination, King said, “Let us keep the issues where they are. That’s all this whole thing is about. We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people.”

President Ronald Reagan signed a bill in 1983 creating a federal holiday to honor King. The holiday was first observed in 1986. 

President George H.W. Bush said in 1992 the celebration would be observed on the third Monday of January each year, near the time of King’s birthday. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially observed in all 50 states by 2000.

The Rev. Carl Terry of Bethel AME served as host of Monday’s 90-minute program, assisted by the Rev. Orville Jones of First Baptist Church and Pearl Harris of the Cathedral of Worship.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. THROUGH THE YEARS

  • “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” — From the “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 28, 1963
  • “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” — Washington National Cathedral, March 31, 1968.
  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” — Letter from jail in Birmingham, Ala., April 16, 1963.
  • “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” — Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964.
  • “True peace is not merely the absence of tension. It is the presence of justice.” — “Stride Toward Freedom” speech, 1958

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