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Michelle D. Lawyer and Michelle Williams sing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," accompanied by pianist Harold Kono, at the 50th Year Commemoration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rod Rolle

Michelle D. Lawyer and Michelle Williams sing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," accompanied by pianist Harold Kono, at the 50th Year Commemoration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Still Working to Make Dr. King’s Dream a Reality

50th Anniversary Commemorates the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


In honor and remembrance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., community members met and celebrated his life on Saturday, April 7, 2018, at the Santa Barbara Free Methodist Church. The program was titled “Still Working to Make Dr. King’s Dream a Reality.” The service opened with with a recording of Mahalia Jackson singing one of Dr. King’s favorite hymns, “Precious Lord Take My Hand.”

President of the MLK Committee E. Onja Brown-Lawson spoke of the continuing need to take Dr. King’s call to heart, to remain vigilant in standing for equality, justice, and fairness for all people, to continue to struggle against classism and racism, and to stand-up by speaking up.

Emiliano Campobello played a moving flute solo of “Amazing Grace.”

Rev. Colleen Hurley-Bates, the lead pastor at the Free Methodist Church, read a scripture from Colossians 3:12-17 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Samuel De Palma, well-known bass-baritone, sang the tender hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow and I Know He Watches Me,” accompanied by Harold Kono on piano and backed up by attorney Michelle Downey and Michelle Williams. Pastor J. Louis Watkins also spoke, reminding those assembled the need to be foot soldiers in the continuing journey to justice, that we should continue to uplift and love one another individually and through community.

Pastor J.B. Ficklin, of the Greater Hope Baptist Church, echoed Dr. King’s words in what Dr. King considered to be his own eulogy, when he told those attending, “I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right and to walk with them. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe the naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.”

All of this was beautifully reinforced by another of Dr. King’s favorite hymns,

“If I can help somebody, as I travel along, if I can help somebody with a word or a song, if I can help somebody from doing wrong, no my living shall not be in vain.”

Michael Downey read a portion of Dr. King’s, “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech from April 3, 1968, just before Dr. King was assassinated.

There was music to swell hearts and soothe souls. Michelle Downey Lawyer and Michelle Williams sang “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” and a medley of spiritual and stirring songs was sung by Bernice Garrett accompanied by Juan Turner.

Rod Rolle

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee of Santa Barbara’s Isaac Garrett introduces Mayor Cathy Murillo at the remembrance held at the Free Methodist Church.

Santa Barbara Mayor, Cathy Murillo spoke movingly about the need to remember Dr. King and what he stood for and worked for. She thanked the MLK Committee for its yearly events presented to the community to keep Dr. King and his memory alive.

Sojourner Kincaid-Rolle read her poem “We” which reads, in part,

We are the bearers of their flags.
We are the tellers of their stories.
We are the singers of their songs.

We feed the starving.
We clothe the threadbare.
We shelter those who have no home.

We work for change.
We demand justice.
We uplift the downtrodden.

We are the future generations.
We embrace the power of people united;
We will never again be defeated.

In the names of our ancestors,

We stand.
We stand tall.
We stand together.

After the service the audience shared personal memories of Dr. King and how he had changed hearts and lives in many different ways. A reception followed in the meeting room adjacent to the sanctuary.

The program was emceed by Isaac Garrett the first vice-president of MLKSB. Toni Schultheis is MLKSB secretary.

E. Onja Brown Lawson is president of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee of Santa Barbara, which presented the program with the Free Methodist Church of S.B.

Editor’s Note: This story was corrected on April 30 to note the correct side men and women for Samuel De Palma.

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