DOVER — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s push for racial equality and his legacy of peace remain relevant today, amid turbulent times that have seen protests — some of which turned into riots.
That is why many community groups feel it remains imperative to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day each third Monday of January.
This year’s 36th annual celebration will mostly take place virtually around Delaware, as, for the second year in a row, the coronavirus pandemic persists.
The Inner City Cultural League in Dover will host an online event Monday to honor Dr. King, starting at noon. It can be viewed on YouTube and on ICCL’s Facebook page.
It will feature performances by the Sankofa Drum and Dance Co., guest speakers, singers and a message by keynote speaker Dr. Vilicia Cade, CEO and superintendent of the Capital School District.
Reuben Salters, who founded ICCL in 1971, spoke during last year’s event of getting the chance to meet Dr. King back in 1957.
Dr. King had gained fame as a leader of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott. He was also pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Montgomery.
“At the time, (Dr. King) was about 27 years old — he was 25 when he started — but by the time I got to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1957, he was the same age as I,” Mr. Salters said. “I met him, went to his church and talked to his wife and talked to him.
“We had great conversations together. I did not realize that he would be such a powerful and wonderful man.”
Mr. Salters also reflected on the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day, back in 1986.
“In 1986, the recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday became a reality in Dover, as we celebrated at the Humanities Auditorium at Delaware State University with Dr. Luna Mishoe, Gov. Michael Castle and myself. We had an awesome crowd. A whole lot of people came out to celebrate this first national holiday. The holiday had been signed into effect in 1983 by (President) Ronald Reagan. It had taken three years for fruition to come upon us.”
Mr. Salters added that, since 1991, ICCL and Delaware State University have combined to create a King program that is entertaining, warm and educational.
“I want you all to remember, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is a day on and not a day off,” he said.
As part of last year’s remembrance, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons said he believes ICCL shares a message with Dr. King.
“Dr. King had a dream that we could live in a society where we move past our tragic history of racial inequality and injustice and allow Americans to live their lives independent of some of these historic inequalities,” he said. “There are direct parallels between the service of ICCL here in Dover and Dr. King’s message.
“He led his followers to pull together and to combine compassion and education as a way to lead Americans towards a better future involving civil rights advances. Both the ICCL and Dr. King have enabled future generations to be involved, to find their voice and to move us forward. Our state is made better by organizations like ICCL, one that touches the community directly, makes a difference, never stops serving and educating for a better tomorrow.”
The Rev. Dr. John Moore has been portraying Dr. King at countless events across the country for more than 30 years, spreading his timeless message before thousands of people.
He has said he has witnessed a lot of change when it comes to racial sensitivities over the past couple of years.
“The thing that has fascinated me now more than ever before is the diversity of people that are involved in these protests,” said the Rev. Moore, a resident of Magnolia and an associate pastor for Dover Christian Church. “Many people may have thought that the 1954 decision of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education that segregated public schools may not have had the effect that they thought.
“I think contrary when I look at the protests today, not only in America, but across the world, and that is, not only are Black lives important to people of Brown skin or Black skin, but they’re important to everybody.”