Those words, uttered by Minister Randolph Edwards, triggered applause and a chorus of “amens” during the Southeastern Ohio NAACP’s tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., held Monday at Paint Creek Regular Baptist Church in Gallipolis, Ohio.
In recent years, Paint Creek Regular Baptist has become the hub of activity for the tri-county area related to the celebration of the slain civil rights leader’s life, teaching and legacy.
Edwards, associate minister at New Jerusalem Christian Center in Ironton, Ohio, told the audience that Dr. King’s message of equality, freedom and non-violence was only enhanced by his death, not diminished in any way.
“Never in a million years did the cowards responsible for taking his life know what they had started,” Edwards said. “We know by killing him, they figured that his message, that the movement, would die. His message might not have spread like wildfire if he was still here today. Think about it, by killing Dr. King, they turned him into an icon.”
He said Dr. King’s message will live on forever, noting that the man’s legacy will be etched in stone in the form of a monument that will be built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, and also in the hearts and minds of Americans because of the official holiday that has been observed annually since 1986.
“I would like to think that someone out there is listening to Dr. King and has been touched enough to change their life for the better,” Edwards said. “His work, his legacy is still here all around us. He did his part. Now we have to step up and do our part.”
Echoing Dr. King’s speech, “The Drum Major Instinct,” Edwards cautioned the audience against becoming too self-centered, and, instead of focusing on ourselves, to turn our passion, desire and ambition outward, utilizing those traits for the betterment of our society.
“Dr. King’s speech challenges us to use our ‘drum major instinct’ to uplift and inspire others, to create justice by living for the commitment of the truth and love for all mankind,” Edwards said. “How we live and foster that instinct is what can make a difference, not only for ourselves, but the world around us.”
Edwards also drew from the words of Jesus Christ in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 5, encouraging the audience to love their enemies. He said that Dr. King told people of his generation to look at themselves as individuals and to look at their enemies and see their good qualities. He also quoted Dr. King, stating, “When the opportunity presents itself to defeat your enemy, you must not do it.”
Edwards closed his address with a call for people to love one another, as Christ commanded his followers to do in scripture.
“God gives us the ability to love everyone all the time,” Edwards said.
Dr. Francine Childs, an ordained minister and professor of African American Studies at Ohio University, was the keynote speaker Monday evening at the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College’s MLK Day celebration.
Childs recounted experiences from her childhood, relating a story of how her grandfather encouraged her to overcome adversity by eliminating the word “can’t” from her vocabulary.
“It doesn’t make any difference where you came from, just where you’re going,” she said.
Childs said she was inspired by a brief encounter with Dr. King during her years at Paul Quinn College in west Texas.
“I want to impact the lives of young people the same way you impacted me,” she told Dr. King at the conclusion of their visit. “He was a man that went to the mountaintop, but when he went to the mountaintop, he didn’t go and forget everybody else.”