The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made a call for justice that can be heard across generations.
Gainesville pastor the Rev. Stephen Samuel said King’s message still resonates today, and those who hear it should not sit back and do nothing.
Samuel was the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration event Monday at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School. Samuel said the holiday is a day of remembrance, repentance and responsibility.
“There are certain voices that God sends to us at certain moments that cannot be silenced by violence,” Samuel said. “There are certain voices that have withstood the test of time, because these voices speak the truth of God. I will declare that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of those voices.”
Beverly Hamin from Gainesville City Schools spoke at the remembrance event, and said it is important to remember the holiday commemorating King’s legacy “is a day on, not a day off.”
Samuel said all Americans today follow in the footsteps of the work done by King nearly 50 years ago.
“We are privileged as a people and as a community to walk on a path that has been paved by others,” Samuel said.
While it is important to remember King and his legacy, Samuel said, it is also important for people to repent from the mistakes of the past. He said the call for justice both 50 years ago and today is right not only because King demanded it, but because it is from God.
“The call for justice is not just the call from some victimized, suffering people,” Samuel said. “The call for justice is the call of God himself.”
Justice, Samuel said, is universal. It belongs not to one race or one population.
“We want a call for fair treatment, fair wages, voting rights, equal treatment under the law and from law enforcement officers,” he said. “And we don’t call for that because King said it was right; we call for it to be right because God himself says it is right.”
Samuel said he wanted to ask members of the audience one question: Do they still hear King’s voice?
“You cannot hear his voice and sit and do nothing,” he said.
Samuel charged the large audience gathered in Fair Street School’s gym to view the holiday as a reminder to take responsibility for one’s own actions and stop holding other people responsible for their mistakes.
He charged parents today to hold their children to a higher standard and to hold themselves accountable for more.
“I think the generation before us understood that laws might not always work in your favor,” he said. “People might not always treat you the way you think you ought to be treated. But you can’t control the things they do. You can control what you do.”