By Alan Montgomery
Their message, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, was “Standing on the side of love.”
With love, the leaders of the King remembrance ceremonies proclaimed, all problems can be conquered.
All injustice can be endured and eventually cured.
More than 200 true believers gathered at 2:15 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Second Missionary Baptist Church, 1008 N. Ford, for prayers — not the solemn, hushed, white-folks kind, but the joyous, shouting, clapping-and-cheering kind, with people responding to the minster with “Oh, yes!” “Uh-huh!”and “That’s right!”
They gathered for prayers before filing out into splendid sunshine and shirtsleeve weather to take part in a symbolic march down 11th Street, east, about a block, to then turn into the Stringer Fine Arts Center parking lot.
A New Orleans-style Dixieland marching band led the procession, with selections including “When the Saints go Marching In.”
The band, with several HCC jazz students in it, along with local musicians, kept a lively pace, at times at times bringing a group of about 50 marchers with them and creating a gap of about a 100 feet, after which another 150 or so participants happily walked along, smiling and holding up placards and banners.
There were people of all ages, strolling along, enjoying the atmosphere of love, pride and belonging.
One man’s placard in the march said this:
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Do the right thing. Take a stand.”
A woman’s sign said:
“We salute Dr. King. A day on. Not a day off!”
Others were short and sweet:
“NAACP says, ‘Justice for All, Now!’”
“Standing on the side of Love.”
As people arrived at Hutchinson Community College’s Stringer Fine Arts Center, where the main celebrations of the day would begin at 3 p.m., many gathered out in the covered entrance area and listened as the jazz band played more rousing selections. There were big smiles. Many were swaying and clapping to the music.
Then the band finished their songs and the crowd moved inside, where they settled into theater seats in the main auditorium and listened to inspiring talks by a succession of ministers, along with HCC President Carter File and Dr. Hence Parson, retired head of the college’s department of sociology.
At the end of the day, the message was clear: Dr. Martin Luther King stood for love and for peace. And in many ways, we are moving towards times where more of God’s children can live in love and peace.