Members of the Edwards community marched from 412th Test Wing Headquarters to Chapel One Jan. 15 to honor the life and faith of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Those leading the group carried a sign which read, “Remember! Celebrate! Act! ‘A day on, not a day off!'”
The march was sponsored by the Edwards AFB Chapel included a service honoring King’s life and a time of fellowship and refreshments in the Chapel 1 Annex. Following each guest speaker, one of King’s favorite hymns was sung, led by the Edwards AFB Gospel Service Praise Team.
The first speaker, Rev. Clifford Carter, a retired reverend from California City, spoke on King’s response to adversity.
“Dr. King had to stay on his knees all the time because of the controversy and adversity that followed him,” said Carter. “Some of the adversities he faced were his phone being tapped, surveillance by the FBI and death threats to him and his family.”
He added that he was impressed by King’s ability to lead people no matter what adversities he faced.
He shared that March 7, 1965, King set out to march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery with many other civil rights marchers. The group only made it as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge where they were turned back forcibly by police and many were jailed.
According to Carter, King requested that the injunctions be lifted by the court system. Two days after the first march, King returned to attempt a second, peaceful march.
“I was influenced by this particular incident because he led a group of people on March 9, 1965, to the same bridge and not risking violating the injunction, he knelt down and prayed,” said Carter. “Only a man of faith and belief in his God would kneel down and pray, facing beatings and jail time.”
Carter’s presentation was followed by the singing of “Precious Lord, Take my Hand.”
The second speaker, Linda Phillips-Bell from the 412th Medical Support Squadron, spoke on King’s response to tragedy.
“Have you ever thought of what you might do if someone were to kill your child, your mother, your father or your spouse? Someone wants to brutally murder your loved ones just to make a statement, what would you do?” said Phillips-Bell. “Dr. King said, ‘Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.'”
Phillips-Bell is the mother of two growing boys, both of whom are tall for their age. She reflected on her attitude towards those who would set out to harm her children and recalled an incident at her son’s basketball game. During the game, she heard the mother of a child on the opposing team begin to yell, “Get that big one, hurt that big one. He’s on steroids, he’s on drugs, he shouldn’t be allowed to play with the other little kids.”
“Something stirred up in me … but I chose to follow the peaceful way,” said Phillips-Bell.
She stated that King was a man of choice and a man of faith that could have chosen hate, but chose “God’s way” instead. She told the story of four children that died in a bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., Sept. 15, 1963.
Phillips-Bell said that when King spoke on the event, he did not ignite violence. Instead he said, “These children, unoffending, innocent and beautiful were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity and yet, they died nobly. Their death says something to us. It says to each of us that we must substitute courage for caution. We must not be concerned merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and relentlessly for the realization of the American dream.
Aug. 16, 1967, King stated that he could never advocate violence because “darkness cannot put out darkness, only light can do that.”
Phillips-Bell finished her speech by reading 1 John 4: 7-8 which says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Her presentation was followed by the hymn, “There is a Balm in Gilead.”
The final speaker of the morning, Chaplin Capt. Graham Baily, 412th Test Wing, spoke on King’s response to success. He started by reading a long list of King’s accomplishments and awards and concluded that King himself would not have been “all that impressed.”
“[King] said we are prone to judge our success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than the quality of our service and relationship to mankind,” said Baily. “He made our nation stronger because he made it better.”
He went on to say that for King, success was measured by sacrificial service towards others. He added that the secret ingredient to success in daily life is forgiveness and faith, “the stuff of his dream that changed the narrative of American history.”
Each member of the audience stood to join in the final notes of the service as the praise team sang, “We Shall Overcome.”