PELL CITY – More than 250 people gathered to reflect on what it means to be a keeper of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy at the Sixth Annual St. Clair County Martin Luther King Unity Breakfast Monday.
“Dr. King is very much worthy of us stopping to reflect and celebrate history as an African-American man is being sworn in as President of the United States of America,” said guest speaker the Rev. Larry Batie, who is Dean of Student Life Engagement and Dean of Chapel at Miles College in Birmingham, and pastor of the Miles Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Fairfield.
The theme for the breakfast, held at the Pell City Civic Center, was “Promoting Community Unity and Awareness.”
“What a historic day this is,” Batie said. “God has a sense of humor.”
Batie said the same spot where President Barack Obama is being sworn in used to house tents for the slaves who built the White House.
“Hundreds of years later, men and women who couldn’t enter that place unless they were serving will now be served,” he said. “What a wonderful God we serve.”
Batie said he wanted to talk about what it means to be keepers of the dream.
“What does it mean to keep something?” he said. “You protect it, guard it, preserve and take care of it. We are called to protect, guard, preserve and take care of the dream.”
Batie said when God delivered the Children of Israel from Egypt after years of slavery, many were lost and had adapted to the culture of Egypt.
“When Moses asked God, ‘Who shall I say sent me?’ it was because Egypt had many Gods,” he said. “If Moses told them God sent him, the Israelites would ask him, ‘Which one? God said tell them I am that I am.”
Batie said the Israelites were traveling towards the Promised Land, but were carrying the shackles of slavery.
“As soon as adversity struck, they started whining and reflecting,” he said. “They cried out to God saying this God has brought us out here to die. Then they cried out to Moses.”
Batie said the Israelites lost sight of what God had already done for them—delivered them from slavery and fed them by day.
“Dr. King taught love and they hated him,” Batie said. “He taught nonviolence and they killed him.”
Batie said when the Israelites cried out to Moses, Moses got frustrated and went to God in his frustration.
“God told them to be still and cease their complaining,” Batie said. “God told Moses, ‘I expect them to complain—they spent hundreds of years in slavery—but you know what I can do.’”
Batie said God expects leaders to have a higher understanding and move forward with faith.
“Dr. King adopted a nonviolent resistance, yet he was killed,” he said. “When he lost his life in Memphis, he was fighting for poor people and about to participate in a sanitation march.”
Batie said Robert F. Kennedy spoke about King saying, “Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in…
“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”
Batie said King believed that darkness cannot drive out darkness—only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate—only love can do that.
“In his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, he told us to walk ahead and don’t turn back,” Batie said. “He dreamed we live in a colorblind world. We haven’t achieved it yet. We must be keepers of that dream and ask ourselves, ‘What does his life and legacy mean to me?’”
Batie said inactivity is a dangerous thing, and an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
“Whenever you stop moving, you become stagnant,” he said. “It is a danger in society today—they want everything but are not willing to give anything. ‘What can I get out of it,’ not ‘what can I do for you.’ Debating whether men and women should be covered by healthcare when you are covered well yourself—how selfish to debate that.”
Batie said people find things evil when it doesn’t benefit them.
“I don’t have a welfare mentality,” he said. “Welfare was not designed to be permanent, but to help people through a period. But after that, you must provide opportunities so they can move ahead. Without those opportunities, they are stuck.”
Batie said keepers of the dream must move past selfishness.
“People died and suffered to open doors we walked through,” he said. “We need to remember and never forget—tell the story so we never repeat that horrible time in our history again. Not to glorify it or create anger, but to remind us where we come from and where we still need to go.”
Batie said inactivity is dangerous, because people think they have arrived when they have so far to go.
“People in this country who harbor bigotry and hatred—it’s not limited to white people,” he said. “You have to take the time to heal. One thing that America has failed to do is be honest about the past, heal and move forward. Fear can conquer your faith if your faith doesn’t conquer your fear.”
Batie said rascals come as Democrats, Republicans and Independents, black and white and Hispanics.
“That’s why Dr. King said judge a man by the content of his character,” Batie said. “I have run across blacks, whites and Hispanics I don’t trust, not because of their color but because of my dealings with them.”
Batie said if we are going to be keepers of the dream, we must be proactive to get rid of the strife.
“Be ahead of the game and trust God because with God through Christ we can do all things,” he said. “The problem is we are so afraid we are not going to be accepted. I don’t care if you are black or white—if you’re wrong, you’re wrong. Stand on your principles. Whatever God has for you—no one can stop it if you trust Him. If your faith conquers your fear, you gain victory. Move forward. God is challenging us to move forward with faith.”
Contact Elsie Hodnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.