Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words and legacy were remembered today at the Mount Zion Baptist Church. More than 100 people packed the tiny church to celebrate the life of MLK and his wife, Coretta Scott King, and to reflect on the work that must still be done in order to fully realize King’s dream of equal rights for all.
Brother LaVarn Gordon invited the gathering to join in a chorus of “We Shall Overcome” followed by a reading of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. King delivered the speech on August 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. MLK would later be assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39. The speech was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.
While progress continues to be made in race relations and equal rights, many at the gathering agreed that work still needs to be done in order to accomplish King’s vision. Sharlene Harris shared her memories of living in Winchester during Segregation. “Sometimes I would ride the late bus home from work and there would only be two people on the bus, me and the bus driver. I still had to go to the back of the bus to sit. Walking down the streets of Winchester you never knew what name you might be called or whether someone might try to run you off the street. Even though we now have a black president, African Americans are still treated like second class citizens in many ways.” Harris believes that MLK’s work to remove segregation has played an important role in allowing the United States to achieve its current global leadership position. “How could the United States ever have led the free countries of the world when its own people were not free?”
The gathering drew people from Berryville and Winchester as well as the greater Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. The highly acclaimed Divine Voices of Praise choir of Baltimore’s Ark Church provided a spectacular musical tribute to Dr. King’s legacy. The choir and its director, Marcus Smith, have been successfully competed in gospel competitions sponsored by organizations including the Baltimore Sun and Verizon.
Mount Zion Baptist Church, founded in 1880, is located as the corner of Josephine and Church Street in Berryville, Virginia.