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United By The Dream Bishop Vashti McKenzie’s message of unity, diversity

Michael McGee | 1/27/2014, 9:17 a.m.
Political and social luminaries of the city joined volunteers and private citizens to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther ...
Bishop Vashti McKenzie delivers the keynote speach during the 32nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Banquet on Friday. Paul Malbrough

The Dallas Examiner

Political and social luminaries of the city joined volunteers and private citizens to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the 32nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Banquet. Presented by the city and the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, the event was held Friday at 7 p.m. in the Hyatt Regency on Reunion Boulevard.

Those present for the celebration included Sheriff Lupe Valdez, County Commissioner John Wiley Price and District Attorney Craig Watkins. Guests in attendance had the chance to hear a keynote address by Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, the 117th elected bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the first woman to hold the position.

The buoyant chatter that rose from the 50-plus banquet tables emanated from people of a diverse range of ethnicities, religions, ages and life experiences; a cross section of the city came together in a way that would have been rare, possibly even dangerous, 50 years ago.

Their presence at the dinner together personified the very thing King preached, marched and died for. Many in attendance said that they were moved both by King’s actions and spirit. Speaker Jean-Jacques Taylor, with ESPN Dallas, said that King broke down barriers so that he could achieve his dream of reporting on the Dallas Cowboys one day. Mike Rawlings indicated that without King the leadership of the city would be far less diverse.

In her keynote speech McKenzie noted that King tied the generations together; what he fought for and what has been since birthed from those efforts. However, she bemoaned the lack of focus of society when so much random brutality appeared to be more and more common.

“From the Kent State generation, where four students were killed, to Charles Whitman’s generation, the man who climbed the observation deck of the University of Texas in Austin, killing 16 people …” she opined, “to Sandy Hook Elementary School, the killing of 20 children and six teachers, to just a few days ago, New Mexico, Berrendo Middle School. There seems to be an escalation of senseless acts of violence, not on some distance shore, but right next door.”

McKenzie posed a question to the diners: Does society have a right to remain silent just as violent criminals do? She then offered a possible answer.

“The victim of another senseless act, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once indicated that there comes a time when silence is no longer a valid strategy.”

McKenzie said that he called for a “worldwide neighborhood” that looked beyond race, tribe, gender, class and nation in its neighbors. She urged those listening that the way to peace and equality was through one “supreme unifying principal of life” and stated that, “Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to, ultimately, reality.”

Amid agreement and encouragement voiced by members of the audience, McKenzie wondered aloud if society was ready for such a change.

“Are we prepared for this integration generation who has been exposed to diversity, developed values beyond insider mentality? Are we preparing the next generation of leaders? How are we preparing them?” McKenzie explained that people were looking not for something new, but for something better.