The life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was celebrated Monday with an annual wreath laying ceremony at the site of the former Crozer Theological Seminary followed by a program held in the Clark Auditorium on the Crozer-Chester Medical Center campus.
Organized by the MLK Commemorative Committee of Chester and Vicinity and Rev. Dr. Bayard Taylor, Jr., pastor of Calvary Baptist Church where Dr. King at one time attended and preached, the program included a video of Dr. King titled, “Pieces of Peace,” which included the time he spent in Chester as a student.
In attendance were Chester Council members Elizabeth Williams and William Morgan; Michael Curran, president of Crozer-Chester Medical Center; Pastor Joseph Parnell, president of the Ministerial Fellowship of Chester and Vicinity; and keynote speaker Rev. William Ashford, pastor of Chester’s Shiloh Baptist Church.
Shiloh’s choir performed the music.
“We are here to celebrate the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,” said Curran. “At Crozer-Chester Medical Center we are extremely lucky to have a special connection to Dr. King. Our campus is home to the original location of the Crozer Theological Seminary where Dr. King earned his divinity degree, and where he learned some of the ideals that would shape the rest of his life. We are very proud to carry forward Dr. King’s principles throughout the Crozer-Keystone Health System and the ideals of Dr. King every day, including his belief that everyone deserves the same rights and deserves to be treated with the same essential dignity and human respect.”
Taylor spoke of Dr. King’s time at the seminary and how he prepared for the world stage while studying in Chester. During his seminary tenure, Dr. King took nine classes in public speaking and always dressed in a suit and tie.
“I had the privilege of speaking with some older city residents who remember Dr. King’s days here and what impressed me was how Dr. King ran around in church after the children and the seniors would have to quiet both Dr. King and the children. He had that useful spirit and we are privileged to have had him here in Chester.”
Ashford’s primary message was, “If I don’t do something, who will?”
He began his remarks quoting an op-ed written by George Yancy in the New York Times, titled, “Will America Choose King’s Dream or Trump’s Nightmare?”
Throughout Ashford’s remarks he often ventured back to the political climate of the day.
“It appears as though we have entered into a vicious cycle that has returned us to a time of overt hatred, bigotry and racism. There’s a saying that says the more things change, the more things stay the same. It appears that as we enter into 2018, we are still dealing with the challenges of the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.”
Ashford revisited Dr. King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, saying that somehow, when it is dark enough, you can see the light of the stars.
“As we fight for peace for all people, it is important to acknowledge life’s reality,” Ashford said. “We have to understand that things are not as good as we want then to be or make them out to be. No matter how much we stick our heads in the sand like ostriches, it does not change the world around us… Dr. King tells us that hope is still alive… He tells us that there is much to do and join with those who are struggling and help them pull themselves up.”
Ashford said there is much work left to do… and everyday citizens must respond.