Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

                                        By Reggie Beamon

   Happy New Year. We have all been blessed to come another 365 days with hope and optimism of change and opportunity. 2012 also brings an election for President; and to some the end of the world in December.

   Prior to all these events, taking one month at a time, January is a very special month as our nation and world honors Reverend Martin Luther King. King noted he wanted to be remembered as “a drum major for justice”.

   Locally, our remembrances of King’s legacy are celebrated in black churches with two major services, directed by our black clergy. One service is conducted in the morning and the other in the early evening at two separate churches. Politicians, elected officials and some selected members of the community will be called on to give remarks which always seem to stress to the assemblages how King’s vision is realized. Over the many years of these celebrations, those of us, who have had the honor of attending or participating have heard excessive rhetorical renditions of how we have overcome the past.

   WOIC and our affiliates throughout this country and around the world also pause in January to remember to honor our founder, Reverend Leon Sullivan. Without Sullivan’s vision, leadership and careful guidance the civil rights movement would not have been as successful as it has become on many different fronts.

   There are thousands of unsung heroes in the movement for justice that will never be known. Their contributions and sacrifices also need to be realized especially during the MLK weekend.

Reverend Leon Sullivan

   In two books, “Build Brother Build” and Moving Mountains”, Sullivan discusses the Philadelphia led “Selective Patronage Program”(SPP) and how it propelled thousands for employment and business opportunity. He also writes of his work with a young Martin L. King who heard about the successes of SPP and wanted Sullivan to provide his leadership to begin “Operation Breadbasket” in Chicago, where Reverend Jesse Jackson has now expanded this program into the Rainbow Push Coalition. King also sought out Sullivan’s SPP to plan and sustain the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the turning points in the fight for justice in the movement. Sullivan’s SPP served as one of the main aspects of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s “economic arm” activities.

   Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times, Sullivan was one of the black ministers in a leadership cadre which made it possible for King to become a recipient of this heralded award.

  Sullivan expressed in “Moving Mountains” that nothing has been more crucial to the success of OIC than its ties to the church. Sullivan gives praise to the four hundred “colored preachers” in Philadelphia who put aside their differences to “turn the city upside down in terms of providing job opportunities… where doors had been previously closed.” Beginning the OIC movement Sullivan continued,” These four hundred left their denominations at the door and prayed and worked together for a common goal.”

   Sullivan noted,” Our preaching to the church must express a commitment to bringing both hope and practical relief to the poor and needy, especially the children. People will not need milk and honey in heaven. Many do need ham and eggs on earth.”

   When the many members of our clergy gather for MLK Day, our community will be looking to you to provide leadership in keeping justice flowing like a “mighty stream”. Our community as well has to finally put together an agenda for action. The community looks to our clergy to reaffirm our faith in the miracles of sharing and doing. In the stirring words of Dr. Sullivan,” We rose above poverty by God’s grace and through family members, teachers and ministers who taught us and helped us to help ourselves.”

   As we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, WOIC will be ringing the bell in thanks to Sullivan and King who shared their collective genius to empower people. The bell will also be ringing with the expectation of our community coming together to keep the dream alive everyday.