March on Washington - Dr. Randy Kelley Reflects on the Anniversary

August 30, 2013

Rev. Dr. Randy Kelley

I was very reluctant about attending the March on Washington. I anticipated a huge typical civil rights type extended family reunion. At these reunions, there is often more rumination than reflection. There is a considerable amount of time spent mulling over the past, lauding civil rights celebrities and chewing on the cud. However, I was so excited to see so many young people who were not even born in 1963.

While I was at the march, I was interviewed by BBC Television and an hour long syndicated radio talk show based in Tuskegee called "You Got the Power" by Omar Neal on the significance of the gathering. I responded by saying that it did not make any difference if we miss Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s purpose for protesting. He stated that he came to Washington to cash a bad check that America had given the Black people. Dr. King stated "100 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, we are still not free.” Therefore, I stated that 150 years later we are still not free. We are still holding the "bad check." We are still marching about the same issues. It is just the same old soup warmed up gain.

Most of the contemporary challenges cited by three Presidents and an elegant parade of civil rights icons and speakers have not changed. They included skewed immigration laws, voter suppression, insensitive courts, the proliferation of gun sales, stand your ground laws, the racial profiling and murder of an unarmed child trying to go home and the ensuing traditional verdict. All of these issues are deeply rooted in psychopathic societal sin of racism. It is sin that the church tends to be just as silent about in 2013 as they were when Dr. King wrote his letter from the Birmingham jail address to clergy leaders.

We have a choice. Either, we can be pathetic and ignore it, or we can be prophetic and challenge it. There is no middle ground. Dr. King and so many others turn the political steps at the Lincoln memorial into a prophetic pulpit that stirred the conscious of the world. Perhaps, this diverse under 50 crowd will not only ruminate but will also reflect on how we can unite to bring about a more just and loving world. In retrospect, I am glad I went.

Rev. Dr. Randy B. Kelley is pastor of Goodsell and Powell Chapel United Methodist Churches. He is also Convener of Religion and Race for the North Alabama Conference United Methodist Church.


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