Book offers reflection of King's impact on lives


By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor

April 4, 1968, is a date that might not hold special meaning for some, but for many others it stands as one of the most tragic in United States history.

On that day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. King was the undisputed leader of the American civil rights movement. His assassination by James Earl Ray angered and saddened African Americans, broke the hearts of fellow civil rights advocates and crystallized the division between black and white citizens.

Forty years later, many civic and religious leaders believe race relations have improved, but they also acknowledge more work needs to be done.

To that end, the Mississippi Conference has produced Long Live the Dream, a collection of reflections on King's life and legacy. The booklet contains 27 personal reflections from clergy and laypeople in the Mississippi Conference. The conference Commission on Religion and Race proposed the book as a way to mark the 40th anniversary of King's death.

"Bishop (Hope Morgan) Ward had the idea of honoring the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's death," said the Rev. Fitzgerald Lovett, who serves on the conference staff and works with the Commission on Religion and Race. "We used the same format - personal reflections - as we did for Ashes and Alleluias last year."

Lovett praised the response, which was open to anyone who wished to participate. "We got a good cross section of the conference," he said. "We had young, old, black and white respond."

He noted that the first entry in the book is a poem written by 9-year-old Katelyn Jackson of Jackson.

"This book is a testimony to the fact that the dream still lives in many of us," the Rev. Steve Casteel, director of Connectional Ministries, writes in the introduction. "The truth is that parallel universes still exist, but there is travel between them. The truth is that our children are inheriting a world a little different from the one people my age grew up in."

Lovett said commemorating King's death is important "in part so that we don't repeat the mistakes of the past. It will allow us to create a dialogue."

"I think when a white person hears a story told by a black person, when a black person hears a story told by a white person or a young person hears an older person and they truly listen, then they can gain some understanding they didn't have before," Lovett said.

The book is dedicated to Martha "Twick" Morrison, who died earlier this year. Morrison was chairperson of the Commission on Religion and Race and had worked with the conference in a number of racial reconciliation efforts.

Copies were mailed to active clergy and the lay members of Annual Conference. Additional copies are available for $1 each plus shipping while supplies last. Contact Connectional Ministries, or 601-354-0515 to place an order.