Straight talk about his personal experiences and the current social and political climate in the United States was what people heard during Delaware’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Celebration.
Bishop Lawrence Reddick III, an Ohio Wesleyan University alumnus who is now presiding bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church’s Eighth Episcopal District, was the keynote speaker for the event on Monday at his alma mater.
Reddick, 65, shared numerous stories about his childhood growing up in Huntsville, Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s.
“I remember vaguely a day getting on a city bus, I believe to go to school. I was about five or six,” Reddick reminisced. “I sat on one of the front seats and the driver told me to move. I didn’t remember or know why he was telling me to move, but he told me to move. My sister in the back told me, ‘Come on back here with me, Larry.’ But I didn’t move.
“And so the driver didn’t move,” Reddick continued. “My sister begged me to move. And so I finally moved.”
Reddick recalled his father’s response to the incident.
“I remember that night when my father heard about that morning, he was very angry,” he said. “Not angry at me, but angry at the bus driver and angry at the system. And we never rode that city bus again.”
Recalling the Civil Rights Movement, Reddick said most of the work was accomplished by a relatively few inspired leaders.
“Into that environment where we were almost all afraid, came someone by the name of Martin Luther King Jr., who was emboldening people, preaching words of hope and encouragement,” he said. “Huntsville was just as racist as Birmingham, but we were too afraid to stand up. But Martin King started giving courage. Ralph Abernathy started giving courage. Fred Shuttlesworth and Fannie Lou Hamer, in Mississippi, started giving us courage.
“So when I speak of truth, I speak of the courageous audacity of a few people, not a lot of folk,” Reddick added. “It’s really a misreading to act like there was a great movement in the south.”
Reddick explained some of the reasons why King was the key figure in the Civil Rights Movement, which he said in Alabama was largely “a spiritual movement.”
“Martin King represented truth because he brought courage to us who were Christians,” he said. “Martin King represented truth also because he inspired us to see in his person and hear in his message what scholarship could do. … Martin King was truth because he showed us what sacrifice and commitment mingled together could do. … He chose to go back to the south and give himself in the ministry of the church and to community service. That’s what truth is about.”
Turning to contemporary issues, Reddick commented on the administration of President Donald Trump and recent controversial remarks the president made by about countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and Central America.
“I understand a lot of people wanted to teach Washington a lesson. I hope you can admit you learned a lesson for yourself, too,” Reddick said. “Because if you’re not embarrassed about our president calling nations of the world ‘s***hole nations,’ I am. I am.”
Rev. Jon Powers, chaplain at OWU, gave the audience a point to ponder regarding diversity with his opening remarks: “This is what heaven is going to look like. Get used to it.”
MLK Committee Co-Chair Jen Ruhe honored Natalie Darst, the recipient of the 2017 MLK Scholarship. Darst is an alumnus of Hayes High School and is currently attending Bowling Green State University, majoring in early childhood education.
Contact Andrew Carter at 740-413-0900. Follow him on Twitter @DelOhioEditor.