MLK letter’s impact to be focus of panel discussion
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Nov 05, 2013 | 677 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“My Dear and Fellow Clergymen,” began Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” on April 16, 1963.

“... I came across your recent statement calling my present activities ‘unwise and untimely.’ Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.” 

It has been 50 years since these words were penned on newspaper scraps in a jail cell. Many know of King’s “I have a Dream” speech, but far fewer have read his letter admonishing and challenging the eight clergymen who criticized him.

“In 1963 there were so many cataclysmic events taking place at that time,” associate pastor Tyrone Richmond said the letter holds as much weight as King’s famous speech.

“Seldom do people know the content of the letter [King] sent and how robust it was, not only to the eight clergymen, but to everyone.”

Richmond’s belief in the importance of the 10-page letter led to the formation of a panel discussion to be held on Saturday, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at The Church of God Sanctified.

Panelists have been chosen for their expertise and experience with the Civil Rights movement. They include:

- Carl Ellis, a man who travels around the world doing extensive ministries with African-Americans;

- Dr. Terril Littrell, a renowned civil rights activist who walked with King;

- John Edwards, a 91-year-old man who was affiliated with King;

- Professor D. David Holt; and

- Professor Ingrid Hart, an accounting teacher at Lee who is from the Bahamas. She will provide both a foreign and female perspective.

The panel will discuss the importance of the letter in 1963 as well as its continued impact today.

Richmond gave an idea of why he believes the letter is still relevant.

“We need to make sure we are still striving for racial harmony,” Richmond said. “As human beings we still need to be motivated by love, not by the color of our skin. We need to make sure we are moving in a loving manner.”

He said this is the way King carried out his ministry through the Civil Rights Movement.

“He understood he was fighting a spiritual war, and I thought that was important,” Richmond said. “He was not fighting flesh and blood. He looked beyond that. He saw everybody as a person in the image of God.”

Anyone who wishes to attend the panel will be welcomed free of charge. The Church of God Sanctified can be found at 746 First St. Additional information can be found through the church at 423-479-3895.

The panel discussion is taking the place of the normally scheduled men’s conference.

An additional 15 minutes will be offered at the end of the discussion for further questions by audience members.

Richmond encouraged anyone interested to attend.

“It was a letter that was revolutionary and fostered a lot of change. He didn’t have mail or Facebook, you know,” Richmond said. “He wrote this letter and here we are talking about it 50 years later.”