MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY: Pastor echoes icon’s call for justice, action

Jan. 20, 2014 @ 06:09 PM

About midway through his now-legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. asked the thousands gathered around the Lincoln Memorial to return to the segregated South, or the black ghettos of the North, to continue the fight for justice, “knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.”

About 50 years later, on Monday afternoon in Sanford, the Rev. George McCormick reiterated King’s words and asked several hundred locals to go back to their neighborhoods, or reach out to rough neighborhoods like Maple Avenue, Third Street and Washington Avenue, to work on bringing King’s vision to fruition.

McCormick is an Asheboro preacher and close friend of Sanford’s Margaret Murchison, president of the Council for Effective Actions and Decisions that hosted Monday’s gathering at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center. McCormick said King’s dream has not yet been achieved, but there is still hope — and that hope will increase if more adults find the Lord and also lead their children down the same path of religious and community service.

He sat in on the morning’s seminar for youth and said that made him even more sure that young people need an adult’s guiding hand.

“They’re not just here to watch TV,” McCormick said of today’s youth. “They’re not just here to sit there texting each other. They’re here to serve the Lord. ... But how can they be taught to serve the Lord if they haven’t been taught to serve here?”

And as important as it is for children to be taught discipline, as well as skills and empathy, he said, it’s also important for black children in particular to be reminded that, as McCormick said while paraphrasing King, “the Negro is still not free.”

The way to change that, he said, is to improve communities from the ground up and also go vote — especially in local and state elections.

“North Carolina is running us back to Jim Crow ... ,” McCormick said.

He asked people to pledge that they’d be more active seekers of justice, and he suggested that the Feb. 8 HKonJ march in downtown Raleigh would be a good starting point. Earlier in the day, both Sanford Attorney Robert Reives II and Chatham County’s Joshua Kricker urged people to attend the march and suggested that there might be buses brought to Lee County to help with transportation.

“We need to load up on those buses and go down to Raleigh,” McCormick said. “And we need to take these young people — because how else will we carry on the message?”

That focus on youth wasn’t just limited to McCormick. Earlier in the day, CEAD officials took up a collection for the scholarships the group awards to Lee County high schoolers and Central Carolina Community College students. Pastor Deloris Currie led the call for donations, noting the smattering of elected officials in attendance.

“We see all the judges and politicians here today,” Currie said. “Well, someone’s going to replace them some day. Someone’s going to replace me as pastor some day. ... See this as an investment in our future.”

Lauren Love, the young woman who gave the event’s official welcome, addressed youth and adults alike. She asked everyone to return to their home, job or school with renewed energy and commitment to equality, and to also work on non-political aims like feeding the hungry and visiting people in nursing homes.

James French, vice president of CEAD who delivered the ceremony’s opening remarks, summed up the theme of the day with one succinct question.

“Ask yourself; don’t ask your neighbor,” French said. “Ask yourselves, ‘What am I doing to keep the dream alive?’”

The event also featured several rousing performances from the MLK Community Choir and a rollicking band, which brought people to their feet and also played just prior to McCormick’s remarks. When he got to the microphone, McCormick sat back down after demanding an encore. He later said it was well worth shortening his speech by five minutes to hear more from the musicians, whom he described as full of the Holy Spirit.