Subzero temperatures didn’t detour a large crowd from attending Monday morning’s 26th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Celebration held in the Benes Room at Ohio Wesleyan’s Hamilton-Williams Campus Center.
“Many are cold, but few are frozen,” said Jon Powers, Ohio Wesleyan University chaplain, before introducing this year’s celebration theme.
“The theme of the celebration this year is the Beloved Community,” he said. “In the spirit of Martin Luther King’s vision, we envision a full year of communitywide programs and conversations, of which will be respectful, civil, caring and honest, and none of which will gloss over historic pain or injuries. All (programs and conversations) will seek to face even our most difficult history as a nation and as a community, with sincere intent to arrive at healing and redemption as the Rev. Dr. King envisioned to be possible with the Beloved Community.”
Powers said the celebration was only the “tip of the iceberg” as to where the community will go this year.
The celebration’s featured speaker — Bishop Tracy Smith Malone — was introduced by Ohio Wesleyan University President Rock Jones, Ph.D., as a prophet, a pastor, a leader and a friend.
“She is a woman of integrity. She is a woman of passion, and she is a woman of deep humanity whose humanity extends beyond the region which she serves,” Jones said.
Malone said she could tell Delaware is a “Beloved Community” just by what she noticed while walking into the room on Monday.
“When the entire county can come together so that we can rethink and reimagine what our role and our place is in helping … embrace what it means to be a Beloved Community,” she said. “It’s a joy and privilege to be here today.”
Malone said it has been 51 years since Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and there are two moments in history that will forever be etched in people’s memories — King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 and his assassination in 1968.
“King’s dream has become the dream of many,” she said. “We see this dream manifested in the ongoing movement for peace, equality and justice across this nation and around the world.”
Malone said King’s dream was “more than just lofty ideals, more than just cherished aspiration, more than just great ambitions.” She said it was “revolutionary.”
“It was a direct call to change in the social order of society,” she said.
Malone said King’s dream confronted racism, inequality, and poverty in society. She said it was a call to action, to greater moral character, civility, and a call for community. It was a movement to act against injustice.
“Seeing and knowing something is wrong and doing nothing is hypocrisy,” she told those in attendance. “It’s been 51 years, and the battle still has not been won.”
Malone said race and racism exist and continues to play a role in American society today. She said it creates victims of homeless, joblessness and food insecurity.
“As a nation, we still spend more money on mass incarceration and military defense than on public education,” she said. “If we truly want to keep the dream alive; If we want to strive toward being the Beloved Community; If we want to commit to the world as a vision of King, we have to face our current reality of current time.”
Malone said there is a moral obligation for all to be civil because “all are connected and belong to God.”
“The time is always now to do what is right,” she said. “We have to decide what type of change we’re willing to communicate to the community.”
Malone is resident bishop of the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church, and she serves on the boards of trustees at United Methodist-affiliated colleges, seminaries and organizations, including Ohio Wesleyan. Elected to Episcopacy in July 2016, she is president of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women and is a member of the Board of Trustees at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Illinois. She earned her Doctor of Ministry degree from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.