UNION — The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the future of American society were the themes of a march and forum sponsored by a local church Saturday morning.
The march, which began at 10 a.m. at the Union County Courthouse, and the forum that followed were both sponsored by McBeth Baptist Church. Marchers made their way down Main Street then up to the church where the forum, featuring speakers from city and county government, local law enforcement, health care, the clergy, and the economic development fields, was scheduled to be held.
The theme of the forum was “Living a Legacy (Look where He brought me from — now where are we headed?). The speakers for Saturday’s forum addressed this theme from variety of perspectives.
City of Union Mayor Harold Thompson said that while King’s legacy must be remembered the emphasis should be on the direction society is going to take in the future, particularly as it relates to younger generations.
“Dr. King’s legacy and ideas have brought us a long way and we should forget that, but we must focus our attention on where we are going,” Thompson said. “We must continue to focus on our youth and show concern about the complacency that now exists in the educational area, the judicial, and health.”
Dr. Natashia Jeter pointed to her own life as an example of how someone who does not come from a privileged background can nevertheless succeed. She also urged the congregation and others attending Saturday’s forum to contact their own doctors and become more aware of their own health. Jeter also encouraged those present to become more involved in the community.
Union County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair pointed out that McBeth Baptist Church is an example of how much has changed as a result of King’s efforts.
“If you look at where the church is located in the mill village then we’ve come a long way,” Sinclair said. “McBeth Church is a good example of pulling together and looking ahead. I see them doing it here today. They are an example to us all.”
While things have indeed come a long way, Sinclair said where they will go next will be determined by the decisions made by society as a whole.
“We’ve come a long way, but collectively, together we have to decide where to go next,” Sinclair said. “If we don’t do that then all of Dr. King’s efforts and expectations would have been somewhat in vain.”
Union County Sheriff David Taylor asked what, if he were alive today, King would think about America.
“What would Dr. King think of the direction our culture has taken?” Taylor asked. “Dr. King patterned his life after non-violence, yet the culture of violence is now pervasive in life itself. Gangs, drive-by shootings, whatever happened to Dr. King’s teachings of non-violence?
“I often wonder what Dr. King must be thinking as he looks down from heaven upon our cities and upon our children,” he said. “He sees senseless violence, rampant drug use, and death.”
Taylor said he feels that the most dangerous enemies society is facing today are gangs, drugs, and the rebirth of white supremacist philosophy. He pointed to incidents in 2013 in which Union County residents were murdered by other Union County residents in killings that were related to gang activity or by those professing white supremacy.
“These are fueled by drugs, money, gangs, and a separatist mentality,” Taylor said. “It seems that in this era of violent chaos as Dr. King prophesied we have regressed to a people separated and living in fear of ourselves and each other while pointing our fingers at everyone and everything but ourselves. The relations between all races will not improve if we continue to refuse to work together.
“Every day should be a day when all men and women consider their own contributions to the fight,” he said. “Such things as ‘Am I letting my children listen to violent rap music? Do I know who my children’s friends are? What are they posting on Facebook?’”
Taylor said that by taking such an interest in their children’s lives, parents will be doing their part to help fight the enemies that threaten to destroy their children. He said this will make the community a better place and bring closer a day King spoke of.
“Then we can say as Dr. King said ‘This will be the day when all God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country, tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing: Land where my fathers died! Land of the Pilgrims’ pride! From ev’ry mountain side Let freedom ring.”’
City of Union Public Safety Director Sam White pointed out that many have forgotten the significance of holidays like Dr. King’s birthday, having turned them into occasions for big sales and parties, losing their meaning in the process. He urged those present to remember the significance of these holidays.
White also reminded those present of the most effective way of changing the world for the better.
“If everyone put Christ at the center of life and in everything they do it would bring glory to God and not themselves then the world would be a better place,” White said.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, Ext. 14.