By Tim Harfmann and Jazmin Rosa
BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Martin Luther King Jr. Day was marked locally with an interfaith prayer service at Our Lady of Victory Church, Bedford-Stuyvesant, on Jan. 20.
The service was led by Father Alonzo Cox, coordinator of the Vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns for the Brooklyn Diocese. The vicariate holds the service annually on MLK Day.
“We live in a world where we need that message now more than ever,” Father Cox told Currents News. “We don’t want to build walls; we want to build bridges that will allow us to grow closer to the Lord [and] to each other. And that’s exactly what Dr. King preached and taught … looking at each other as brothers and sisters.”
At Our Lady of Victory, about 200 people turned out to celebrate King’s life on a frigid day.
An introductory dance selection by the Passion Ministry Through the Arts preceded a singing of the Black National “Dream of Freedom” by the parish choir from St. Martin de Porres, which is also in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Father Robert P. Boxie, III, of the Archdiocese of Washington delivered a speech at the service, in which he described the importance of King’s place in both American history and the faith.
“Dr. King was a man of faith,” Father Boxie said. “His faith was one that literally moved mountains and initiated a movement that changed the course of history in this country one which affected the lives of every single American, and continues to do so to this day.”
Father Boxie also spoke about King’s most notable writing, “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” which was penned in 1963. In the letter, King dismantled arguments made by a group of white clergy who believed that King and other nonviolent protestors should wait for courts’ decisions on segregation instead of engaging in direct action.
King’s letter was so profound that one of the white priests who signed his name alongside other clergyman criticizing the nonviolent protests had a conversion of heart. That priest — Bishop Joseph Durick of Nashville, Tenn., — went on to become an outspoken civil-rights advocate.
“He became a staunch supporter of civil rights and sought to end racial division and became concerned for the poor and the marginalized,” Father Boxie said. “And for this, the bishop was greatly criticized.”
It is up to individuals to take some action, no matter how small, and not be a bystander to history, Father Boxie said.
King’s advocacy, nonviolent protests and letter were individual acts that peacefully sidestepped quiet submission and culminated in something greater that we continue to draw inspiration from, Father Boxie concluded.