They sang moving black gospel songs and melodic Jewish ones; each speech by a pastor or a rabbi carried a message of unity and love. At the end of Sunday’s gathering, everyone held arms and sang out the famous words that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made famous: We shall overcome.
The speeches carried messages highlighting King’s legacy ahead of Monday’s federal holiday honoring the pastor and civil rights activist at Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, where black congregations Moriah, Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church and a Farmington Hills synagogue, Adat Shalom, gathered.
It was the third annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit for the three congregations. .
The event title, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,” was taken directly from the name of King’s final book. The event also announced the creation of the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity to promote black and Jewish relations and combat bigotry and hate.
But some of the speakers also spoke of the rise of intolerance, bigotry and racism, with Moriah’s Rev. Kenneth Flowers taking President Trump to task — in King cadence and style similar to speech’s about President Johnson — over his reported incendiary comments about Africa and Haiti as “s---hole countries.”
“You may ask, why go there? he said. “I know you did not just go there because there may be Republicans and Democrats alike in the room. And it’s not politically correct to talk about the president of the United States of America.” But given King’s life and his penchant for holding people in power accountable. I have no choice but to go there.
“The politically incorrect did not begin with Donald Trump. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived his life being politically incorrect” speaking out against governors like George Wallace of Alabama or presidents of his time, Flowers said. “So if Dr. King can speak out against President (Lyndon) Johnson and the Vietnam War based on his moral conscience, I am now compelled by God Almighty and my moral conscience to speak against Donald Trump and his inherent racist beliefs.”
Trumps comments, he said, favoring immigrants from Norway over those from Africa, Haiti or El Salvador, “is indefensible.”
Rabbi Aaron Bergman of Adat Shalom spoke glowingly about King’s penchant for love in a dysfunctional world and how his message could help into today’s society.
“In a time of chaos, he saw community,” Bergman said of King. “In a time of darkness, he saw light. And one of the most powerful phrases to me is that his very last night he writes, ‘I’ve seen the promised land.’ That promised land exists even in a land that has often broken its promises.”
King, he said, “was our Moses for our time,” bringing people together in challenging and often stressful times.
“Dr. King understood that true power had to bring light into people’s lives, that true power had to create a promised land for everyone, and that he never lost faith,” Bergman said. “Even to his very last day, after everything he had seen, after everything that had been done to him, the light never let out in his soul.”
Ken Konop was bolstered by the message, saying King “was willing to pursue what was absolutely right in the face of horrendous treatment.”
“We don’t want to lose sight of Dr. King’s message because there’s a lot of work to be done and we have to make sure that people work together,” said Konop, 75. “And I think when you listen to what Dr. King was talking about, you need to apply it everyday and not simply one day a year.