[ACNS, by Amelia Brown] Wednesday 4 April marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of American civil rights activist and Baptist minister Dr Martin Luther King. Across the US, marches, ceremonies, and services took place to commemorate Dr King and his work in the civil rights movement.
In Memphis, crowds gathered for a day-long tribute in the Lorraine Motel courtyard where Dr King was killed. It featured speeches, videos, singing, and an interfaith liturgy. In Atlanta, Dr King’s youngest child, Bernice King, spoke at a service at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where she stressed her father’s work to “ensure the inclusion of all.” She also told reporters that her father would have been involved with and excited by modern-day civil rights movements such as Black Lives Matter, March for Our Lives and other efforts to curb gun violence, and the #MeToo campaign against the abuse of women. At 6.05 pm Central Time (11.05 pm GMT), bells tolled across the nation in solemn memorial.
Thousands of marchers arrived in Washington DC in honour of Dr King and his work and for the A.C.T. to End Racism March on the National Mall. Many Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and secular leaders were present for the event. Presiding Bishop of the US-based Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, while originally listed to speak at the event, instead provided a video message due to poor weather.
In his video, Bishop Michael encouraged the marchers and fellow Americans to continue in Dr King’s footsteps to eradicate racism. “On this day and the days going forward, we as Episcopalians join with our fellow Christians and other people of goodwill and of all faiths and types who seek to make this world something that more closely resembles God’s dream and not a human nightmare,” he said.
The National Cathedral in Washington D.C. organised several events, including evensong, a broadcast of Dr King’s final sermon, and a bell toll in solemn reflection. Sunday 8 April will feature a commemoration of Dr King’s final Sunday sermon.
Westminster Abbey in London also held a service in honour of Dr King. The service began with the laying of wreathes at the Innocent Victims’ Memorial and beneath Dr King’s statue above the Abbey’s Great West Door. In his bidding the Dean of Westminster, Dr John Hall, said “Today, working together with Christian Aid, we hope again to learn from the example of Martin Luther King and to commit ourselves afresh to keeping the dream alive of justice for all peoples under God and of peace in the world.”