December 21, 2014

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Church pays tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.

Praise dancers from Wesley United Methodist Church in Lorain perform a dance Sunday during the Lorain Unit NAACP’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program at Friendship Baptist Church in Lorain. ANNA NORRIS/CHRONICLE

Praise dancers from Wesley United Methodist Church in Lorain perform a dance Sunday during the Lorain Unit NAACP’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program at Friendship Baptist Church in Lorain. ANNA NORRIS/CHRONICLE

Complete list of Martin Luther King Jr. Day events

LORAIN — Dreams and nightmares were the subjects of a Sunday tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. at the Friendship Baptist Church.

In a fiery 20-minute sermon, the Rev. John Jackson recalled King’s dream of economic and racial equality and social justice, as well as the civil rights leader’s nightmarish 1968 assassination. Jackson said dreams of equality and justice remain for black people, as do nightmares.

Jackson said that although blacks dare to dream of better lives, “often our dreams are shattered by the reality of our lives, leaving us to face a nightmare.”

Jackson said many nightmares are realities, including a high rate of violence among young black men. Between 2002 and 2011, the homicide rate for blacks was 6.3 times higher than for whites, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Jackson said other nightmarish realities include many black children growing up without fathers in their homes and many struggling in school. Some get hooked on drugs and others die early due to a lack of health care.

Jackson criticized Republican efforts to block ObamaCare and said efforts to improve society are often fought tooth and nail. He recalled King’s sermon of April 3, 1968, the night before he was fatally shot. That night, King said, “I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

Jackson said it was an example of not letting adversity and fear defeat righteousness.

“The reality may be hard to bear,” he said. “But brothers and sisters, you’ve still got to have some type of hope.”

The Rev. John Jackson, of Friendship Baptist Church, gives the sermon during the Lorain Unit NAACP’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program.

The Rev. John Jackson, of Friendship Baptist Church, gives the sermon during the Lorain Unit NAACP’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program.

After the sermon, Jackson said King’s image has been sanitized. He said King’s fight for racial equality has overshadowed his antiwar stance and calls for economic justice.

State Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, who spoke after Jackson, said while King’s last sermon may seem that King foreshadowed his own death, Ramos interpreted it as a call to action. Ramos said King’s condemnation of American economic injustice — “the overfed mouths of middle and upper classes” is how King described it in his 1967 book, “Where Do We Go from Here?” — has not been answered.

“He said, ‘There is no deficit in human resources,’” Ramos said, quoting King. “The deficit is in human will.”

Ramos said that mentality hasn’t changed much since King uttered the quote. For example, Ramos blamed Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration for allowing food stamp benefits to expire for able-bodied people not working 20 hours per week or in job training 20 hours per week.

Ramos said the change was unfair given Ohio’s high unemployment rate. Ohio’s rate increased from 6.9 percent to 7.5 between October 2012 and October 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national rate dropped from 7.9 percent to 7.3 percent during that same period.

Like Jackson, Ramos called on the 75 people at the church to continue King’s fight.

“He knew that we couldn’t reach that Promised Land with his work and his work alone,” Ramos said. “It must be a group effort. We must continue to take the torch from Dr. King and keep on marching, and 50 years later, keep on fighting.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.