From the back of the Tabernacle; MLK ceremony occasions retrospection, focus on freedom

Ron Current, founder of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Man of Peace Ceremonies event, addresses the gathering in the St. George Tabernacle. Seated behind Current is Roi Wilkins and the Sunset Elementary School Chior, St. George, Utah, Jan. 21, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Members of the community gathered at the St. George Tabernacle Monday for an evening filled with music and spoken word honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“This is a great day for African-Americans,” Ron Current said as he welcomed people to the fourth annual “Martin Luther King, Jr. Man of Peace Ceremony.” He said it was also a great day for America, as it also saw the second inauguration of Barack Obama, the country’s first black president.

Current is the founder of the event, as well as Impact of Southern Utah, and a cofounder of the Washington County Minority Coalition.

Rick “Roi” Wilkins, also a cofounder of the WCMC, addressed the gathering as well.

“A lot of people don’t take the time to say, ‘hello stranger,’” he said. One man did, however, and that man was King. “He was all about the people,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins shared experiences he had with other faiths where a sense of brotherhood was practiced and things like skin color didn’t factor into a man’s worth. “They called me ‘brother,’” he said.

“We actually have one race – the human race,” Wilkins said, and encouraged people to reach out to the strangers around them and connect.

“Find someone new today,” he said, “shake their hand and smile.”

Music and song played a prominent part during the presentation, and included performances by a choir from the Sunset Elementary School, the Tonaquint Intermediate School Orchestra, Sauny J., and Dulce.

“Dr. King loved three things,” Current said, “freedom, good food, and music.”

He said King especially loved the music of George Gershwin. “No, we don’t have Gershwin – he’s dead,” Current joked, and introduced Christopher Giles who played a medley of Gershwin songs on the piano.

Robert Maloney, founder of the St. George Writing Group, also shared his thoughts on King.

“There’s so much to speak about Dr. King,” he said, and mentioned various pieces of civil rights and anti-discrimination legislation enacted by Congress thanks to King’s work.

He also asked a question: Though segregation is no longer practiced by society, what about inwardly? “Are our hearts segregated?”

Outer change doesn’t work, Maloney said, but inward transformation does.

“We have the freedom to change the world as Dr. King did, because we have the freedom to change ourselves,” he said.

Don Harwell, president of The Genesis Group, was the keynote speaker for the night.

“Slavery was easy,” he said, “but try being a free man in a county that doesn’t want you.”

He said there was no real freedom for African-Americans following the civil war due to segregation and discrimination in general.

Harwell then pointed to the back of the Tabernacle; “that was the only place we were allowed,” he said.

While Harwell praised King’s legacy, he mentioned the work of others. “Africans did not free themselves,” he said, “it took good people of all nationalities so we could be free.”

In particular, he mentioned Abraham Lincoln and those killed in the Civil War. He also expressed his gratitude for those who lost their lives in the cause freedom, no matter the conflict.

“My heart goes out to those who died fighting for freedom,” Harwell said.

Harwell also spoke of his parents, of how they raised their children and gave them standard to live by. “Martin Luther King was raised by stern parents too,” he said. “They taught him honor and respect.”

Though they couldn’t do a lot in their day, Harwell said, they had the freedom to teach their children.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Wilkins and Manny Aguilar offered closing prayers. Aguilar offered his prayer in Spanish, first taking a moment to share his thoughts before doing so.

“There are no borders when it comes to peace and love,” he said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


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