By Jessica Easthope
The powerful words of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” reverberated through the rafters of Our Lady of Victory Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, on Monday, Jan. 18. It’s the 35th time the nation has come together to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but this year is very different.
“With the murder of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, the protests that we’ve seen throughout our Diocese, the words of Dr. King resonate now more than ever. So I think we have to gather today, on his birthday, in deep prayer,” said Father Alonzo Cox, the pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish and the Coordinator for the Vicariate of Black Catholic Concern for the Diocese of Brooklyn.
This past summer, what could be called a new civil rights movement, erupted across the country. Father Cox says Dr. King’s words can be applied to 2020 just as they were to the 1960s.
“He ends the speech by saying we have some rough days ahead and we do. The words just come alive. He said these words 53 years ago, and they’re really ringing true today in 2021,” Father Cox said.
In years past hundreds would have attended the mid-day prayer service, but in the midst of the pandemic only a fraction came in-person to celebrate Dr. King.
“We have a long way to go, but it’s good that it’s being discussed and brought to the forefront so we can actually have a discussion of these issues and confront them,” said Michelle Joseph, the Director of Religious Education for St. Martin de Porres and a member of the parish’s choir.
As Dr. King was guided by his faith, the Church is renewed in its mission to end the sin of racism.
“We need healing in our nation and his words. His legacy can be the starting point to begin the healing process,” said Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, the Vicar General for the Diocese of Brooklyn.
“This Martin Luther King Day is making me think a lot about hope and hope for the future and how we are going to make that progress over the next five to ten years,” said Tevin Williams a member of the Diocesan Commission on Racism and Social Justice.
The question this year is not “What would Dr. King do?” But rather, what will we do?