PAGE 4 • JANUARY 13, 2018
Remembering the Dreamer Local clergy reflect on Dr. King’s Assassination
r. Martin Luther King, Jr. was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee, when he was fatally shot on April 4, 1968. The pastor and civil rights leader was rushed to St. Joseph’s hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. This year marks the 50th anniversary of King’s assasination, and for many, that moment in time remains unforgettable. Pastor James C. Ward, senior pastor at Antioch-Lithonia Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, vividly remembers when he first heard the news of Dr. King’s assassination.
By Deanna Cauthen
years old when Dr. King was killed. She and her late husband, Ronald Gunby, who was then her boyfriend both walked in the three-mile procession from Ebenezer Baptist Church to Morehouse College.
Dr. Collette Gunby
Pastor James C. Ward “I was a Morehouse College student at the time and I was working as a waiter at the Regency Hyatt House. When we got the news, everybody was extremely sad and we all went home,” said Pastor Ward. “It was a devastating time. Folks had lost all hope.” Although Ward believes that there is still more work to be done, in terms of human rights, he said America is a far better place because of Dr. King’s leadership and others who were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. “I’ve seen so much change and it’s amazing. I have a granddaughter who has been recruited by every Ivy League school in the country and I have nieces and nephews who have graduated from places like Georgia Tech. We’re doing things that I never thought we would do. Looking back has made me see how far we’ve come and I tell my young people to take advantage of every opportunity,” said Ward, who leads a church that includes a line of great leaders including the Rev. Adam Daniel Williams, maternal grandfather of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Collette Gunby, senior pastor at Green Pastures Christian Ministries in Decatur, was just 18
“I remember that it was a long walk, but everybody felt blessed and proud to be able to participate. There were the Black Panthers and commoners like us. There were adults and children. From that moment on, we realized that we had something to do. It was our first opportunity to be involved. I felt like it catapulted the youth into action. It was the most exciting time of my life to be able to march down that street,” said Dr. Gunby. Dr. Gunby talked about how desegregation and Dr. King’s work for equity and racial justice impacted her financially and the economics of African-Americans, in general. “[Because of desegregation], one of my first jobs was to work as a telephone operator at Southern Bell. I was working next to white people, was able to use the same bathrooms, and could get approved for credit. I went on to work at Equifax and was making $300 a week. It was phenomenal. It was a huge change,” said Dr. Gunby. “Nobody [I knew] had a professional job. We used to only be maids and the clean-up crew. There were black teachers, but black teachers could only teach black students. [Desegregation] allowed us to get jobs at places that were forbidden. It opened up our world,” shared Dr. Gunby. Dr. Gunby will serve as grand marshal for the DeKalb NAACP’s 16th Annual Dr. Martin King, Jr. Parade, which kicks off from her church at noon. Pastor Eric Lee, Sr., the senior pastor at Springfield Baptist Church in Conyers, was not yet born when Dr. King was assassinated, but he said that the civil rights leader made a powerful impression on his life.
remember our history. We’ve been encouraged to forget. Jewish people can remember their history, but African-Americans are encouraged to be silent”, said Pastor Lee. Dr. Billie Cox, who is pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Conyers, was just a child when Dr. King was assassinated, but says she remembers how his death affected her community.
Pastor Eric Lee, Sr. “I attended Morehouse College from 1989-1993. As a student, you can’t help but be impacted by the sacrifices of Dr. King. He had such a powerful imprint on human rights and justice”, said Pastor Lee. “I grew up in his shadow and he had a profound effect on my ministry. Dr. King believed that we’re not just here to make as much money that we want to make, and to get temporal things. We want to make an impact. He called it the ‘Beloved Community,’” continued Pastor Lee. Pastor Lee said he believes that the African-American community has forgotten some of the key ideals of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. “There’s been a substitution of self-promotion in place of community development. Even among civil rights leaders, there’s this competition and ambition to be the best. We’ve forgotten why Dr. King did what he did. We don’t think like a people. We think in terms of individualism. There’s an imbalance,” said Pastor Lee. “We must reclaim our history and we can’t be afraid to tell these stories. We need to remember what God has done for us in the past. We haven’t been encouraged to
Dr. Billie Cox “I remember the cries of the adults in my community, the looks of pain and mental anguish on their faces,” said Dr. Cox. She went on to express deep gratitude for the sacrifices that Dr. King and others in the Civil Rights Movement made. “I am grateful that his journey paved the way for many of the opportunities that I have benefited from. I worked in the federal government because Dr. King had a dream of a “ beloved community” that was inclusive and open to all. Because of his dream, doors opened that allowed me to earn my Bachelor, Masters, and Doctoral degrees,” Dr. Cox said. “His journey helps me to stay grounded and committed in my efforts to service the whole community of God. His dream still lives.”