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

She contrasted the journey that Moses took with Joshua and Caleb in Deuteronomy in the Bible to that of the current path society has taken toward equality just as she compared it to the Israelites lost in the wilderness for 40 years. They knew where they were supposed to go, she said, what they were supposed to achieve. They were delivered, she explained, but were not free.

“There is sickness and the hope of healing,” McKenzie stated. That hope is what should motivate the nation toward the better, not the new, she explained.

One of the evening’s younger guests, Tajmia Muhammad, 16, spoke about attending her first such banquet and reflected on what McKenzie’s words meant to her.

“We have to be together and we have to be focused on freedom for the future generations of people,” she said. “This event made me recognize that I support, not just myself, but I support the whole generation.”

Patrick Jackson, manager of the MLK Center, revealed his thoughts about that hope the bishop touched upon.

“There are many people who still believe there’s work to do and they are more than willing to try to work together to try to accomplish those things that are important,” he said. “It’s not like we don’t know what it is. The reality is … are you willing to make the sacrifices it takes to keep going forward?”

Calling the bishop’s words “magnificent,” Jackson said he was thrilled that McKenzie was able to speak at the banquet.

“And that’s what it takes: to find someone who can inspire other people. I say that you work twice as hard for passion than you do for money. And when you are passionate like she is about the things that she believes, then it helps you strive and work that much harder, because it’s not easy.”

After the dinner McKenzie shared her thoughts about the importance of remembering and honoring King.

“It gives us an opportunity to stop and remember the significance of the dream,” she said. “Dr. King’s dream was about a beloved community, love over hate, that we all can come together.” She mused about the “common agenda” that King could draw out of people and remarked that photos from the civil rights era depict all people – men and women, Black and White, Jews and gentiles – marching with King.

“What’s happened in the 21st century, everybody has this individual agenda and we all can’t come under the same page.” McKenzie stated that it was imperative that people return once again to the common cause.

“Come on, let’s get together and let’s work together, for the positive good for everybody. Not some, but for everybody.”