The annual Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall “Remember! Celebrate! Act!” program honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 16 was more of a conversation than a speech.
Acting as the literal voice of King and other greats in African American history, guest speaker Carol Randolph presented an analysis of how the 1960s civil rights leader would react to 2013 current events.
Using the thoughts and philosophies of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, and Sojourner Truth as well as King inside the joint base community center, Randolph guided the audience on the stances black history immortals would have likely taken on educational equality, women’s rights and the gun control debate.
In her reflection of how Dr. King would view America today, Randolph — a former cable television anchor, practicing lawyer and writer — also noted that MLK would have been proud of the benevolence of neighbors and strangers who helped their fellow men and women after the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina and superstorm Sandy, but would still saddened by man’s cruelty to mankind.
“If you ask me right now, I’m gravely concerned about the increasing violence occurring in our country reflected in both words and deeds...[but when Katrina and Sandy] came ashore and destroyed lives, homes and livelihoods, Americans from all walks of life came out to help,” Randolph narrated King’s possible words. “In many instances, [they were] digging deep into pockets that held little change in order to help others rebuild their lives.”
Randolph said that the same kindness was present following the Newtown, Conn. shooting.
“And recently, we saw that same type of reaching out to others when that horrible man-made tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut occurred,” Randolph said. “Too many innocent lives lost. The whys and what fors may never be known. But for many, it tipped the scale, and they said: enough is enough. Now there’s a call to action on gun regulation and safety, and we must do a better job of caring for people who are mentally ill.
“It was during this awful tragedy that individuals across this nation began to take a different and more personal way of helping others,” said Randolph of how King may have commented. “Helping others — easing pain. What that says to me is that there is still a deep core of goodness in America. That most of us are still willing to do what is right for a neighbor and this country. Sometimes, it takes a tragedy to bring these feelings to the surface. But when it comes, it comes with courage and conviction, which makes me believe that there is still hope for this country and its people.”
Randolph finished her remarks by commenting that King would urge Americans to be warriors in doing the right thing in strengthening relationships with each other.
“In a time of crisis — and we are in a time of crisis — people don’t often realize that each of us is a soldier in this war of justice and peace. For every man, woman and child must decide whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. Take the first step in faith; you don’t have to see the whole staircase — just take the first step.”
During Randolph’s introduction, JMB-HH Commander Col. Fern O. Sumpter provided part of King’s biography and his mark on history.
“Ultimately, he made a monumental difference in our lifetime[s],” Sumpter said of King. “It is only fitting that we take time out today and every year to reflect on the principles of racial equality and non-violent social change espoused by Dr. King. And I personally marvel at how he was able to be an instrument for change and an important icon for what our nation has become today.”
Following Randolph’s presentation, master of ceremonies 1st Sgt. Bruce Williams presented an original poem evoking his Family, MLK and those involved in the civil rights movement.
The National Anthem was performed by Sgt. 1st Class Alby Powell, and the invocation was given by Marine Maj. Jerald Jacobs.