Christian Faith Centre started the celebration Saturday morning, Jan. 17, with a free pancake breakfast followed by a community-wide parade through downtown Wichita.
The events provide an excellent opportunity to bring people together throughout the community, said the Rev. Wade Moore, senior pastor at Christian Faith Centre and president of The Greater Wichita Ministerial League which organized the weekend’s events.
“These celebrations give us a sense of unity again,” Moore said. “Our focus here at Christian Faith Centre is to teach our children the civil rights issues of the past and to inform them about some of the things Dr. King stood for.”
Joseph Elmore, a member of Saint Mark United Methodist Church, said that he hopes these celebrations taking place this weekend will galvanize the youth in Wichita and cause them to be activists in their community.
Ellis Hardyway, former president of the United Methodist Men at Saint Mark UMC, said he came to the pancake breakfast and parade to remember the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and to help his wife Barbara reach out to homeless veterans.
“The events taking place this weekend are beneficial to the community because it allows us to bring young people together to remind them of the struggles we have taken part of,” Hardyway said. “Teaching them something about how to help the community grow is always a positive thing. “
After the parade, members of The Kansas African American Museum (TKAAM) offered community projects that will benefit children and families throughout the area. The celebration continued with a book drive at TKAAM where visitors donated their favorite books to be sent to children in Africa. Book donors were encouraged to write a personal message inside their books which will be shipped to the Village of Hope orphanage in Ghana.
TKAAM hosted its 36th Annual MLK Celebration later that evening at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita. The event featured local performers and choirs.
“This evening’s program caps a day of events that we were a part of, said Mark McCormick, executive director of The Kansas African American Museum. “One of the things that I really wanted to do is dispel the myth that this is an African-American holiday. People perceive it that way so we tried to be very purposeful and intentional – really like the United Methodist Church – to reach out to different communities,” McCormick said.
This celebration was also a time for TKAAM to honor individuals for their civic duty in the community. The Rev. Dr. Kevass Harding of Dellrose UMC in Wichita and the Rev. Junius B. Dotson of Saint Mark UMC in Wichita along with Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett each received special recognition for their active roles in the community.
“We had a difficult summer last year in Ferguson and then protests spread throughout the country,” McCormick said. He noted that Harding, Dotson and Bennett “worked very hard to prevent something like that from happening here.” Their efforts led to the Wichita Police Department agreeing to invest in body cameras, an initiative which will protect both law enforcement officers and citizens, McCormick said.
TKAAM’s Education Director Christyn Breathett said that the awards are given to individuals who exemplify the mission and vision of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Each of them – in their own unique way – are performing and living their lives as Martin would,” Breathett said.
The celebration also provided an opportunity for Wichitans to discuss justice issues in the community in hopes of preventing civil rights issues similar to those in Ferguson, Missouri.
“Our main reason for having the event is about coming together and recognizing social evils that are out there, and approaching our younger generation,” Breathett said. “It’s also about encouraging one another to be activists in our community.”
The Martin Luther King Jr. celebration will conclude Monday at Wichita State University’s Hughes Metropolitan Complex, starting at noon. The event is sponsored by The Greater Wichita Ministerial League and WSU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. It features guest speaker Dr. Lance. D. Watson, pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia. The location is 5015 E. 29th Street N., approximately one mile north of WSU's main campus.
Moore said that weekend is a chance to bring people together throughout the Wichita area no matter what denomination or affiliation. This is not only a celebration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., but also a time for community members to come together and talk about justice issues throughout our city, state and nation.
“The atmosphere [at Monday’s celebration] will be more like a church service, just like it was in the civil rights days,” Moore said. “We are bringing it back to a church-like service to let the people know that the church is the seat of the movement and that there is work left to be done.”
Story and photos by Marcus Wright, intern for communications at the Great Plains Conference