Unity, brotherhood and commonality with others was the focus of an event commemorating the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Monday.

Unity, brotherhood and commonality with others was the focus of an event commemorating the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Monday.

The theme was derived from one of King’s statements, "What we are facing today is that through our scientific and technological genius we’ve made of this world a neighborhood. And now through our moral and ethical commitment, we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers — or we will all perish together as fools."

Emcee and Mac Diversity Team member Ray Gibbs said these lines still hold true today. With social networks and the connectedness of the internet, the world is now more than ever becoming a smaller neighborhood. He stressed the importance of making that neighborhood a brotherhood – a path the country has indeed progressed on since King’s speech 50 years ago.

Following an invocation by Mayor Tom Brown, Gibbs recalled the story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her courage to stand up for her seat on the bus eventually lead to a big leap for the civil rights movement, when the practice of segregation on busses was declared unconstitutional.

Alongside Parks was King, who also endured persecution for his innovative ideas.
"For a man with peaceful intentions, he unfortunately spent much of his life targeted by violent attempts," Gibbs said. "But that never stopped him."

Various musical artists commended this brave figure with various numbers.

The McPherson High School mixed ensemble, directed by Nicholas Griggs, performed two numbers by influential African-American songwriters Moses Hogan and Andre Thomas.

Griggs accompanies Miriam Griggs in singing, "My Life is in Your Hands," by Kirk Franklin.
Caleb McGinn then played several numbers on his guitar pertaining to the night’s theme, including "Love Will Find a Way" for King’s approach to segregation, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for King’s dream speech, "Keep Pushing On" to encourage continued perseverance, and "Brother’s Keeper" for tighter community.

The McPherson High School jazz band, directed by Kyle Hopkins, performed two songs that represented significant times of triumph for people of color, such as the "Hatian Fight Song" and number by Count Basie, a big name for early jazz music in the United States.

Following C.J. Luckey’s self-written poem about brotherhood, Griggs led the audience in singing, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a popular patriotic African-American song.

Jimmy Wilson and David Anderson, McPherson College students who helped pass out programs Monday, said they both have friends from a number of different races, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream brought to reality.

"He played a huge part in history, and this is a perfect day to honor him," Wilson said.
Anderson said in order to further this dream, individuals should be comfortable with approaching people they are not familiar with.

Griggs, who was an integral part of the night’s program, said commemorative events like these are away to keep the honoree’s vision live.

"We don’t always keep certain messages alive," he said. "It’s nice to honor them in the right way. It’s not just to be a day off of school. It’s nice for the historical significance of what they meant the and now."

In his eyes, King’s dream continues to be broadened. Griggs said he was the first African-American person to be hired in his first school of employment, and was the first certified teacher at McPherson USD 418.

"I know those ways can’t be paved unless people (like King) are always fighting for freedom and equality," he said. "I’ve benefited personally from being in very homogenous environments and being able to be welcomed and celebrated and still feel like it doesn’t matter where I go. Equality peace for me has been very touching."

Contact Jenae Pauls at jenae.pauls@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel