The Andover Baptist Church is celebrating a special Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday — and everyone is invited.
This year marks 50 years since King gave his famous I Have a Dream speech, when 200,000 gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to hear King share his dream for the future. He called the gathering “the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” King delivered his speech 100 years after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation’s by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.
When members of Andover Baptist Church’s congregation gather next week, that will be on their minds.
The predominantly African American church will hold its sixth annual Martin Lurther King Jr. Celebration and Brunch on Monday, Jan. 21, at 11 a.m. The event is free and open to the public, regardless of one’s hometown or religious beliefs.
“The theme of our day is all about living the dream,” said Denise Wynn, missions ministry chair at the church. “We have a lot of people living the dream today. We have a lot of people inside the congregation who, because of their ancestors, are who they are today.”
This marks the sixth year for the event, which church Pastor Lyndon Myers said the church started “as an outreach opportunity for our church, where we can reach out to the community and invite them in.”
“There was no Martin Luther King celebration happening in Andover,” he said. “I had an idea to use this as an opportunity to put on an event.”
The event will feature keynote speaker Chuck Walker Jr., deacon of Good Shepherd Church of God and Christ in Roxbury. It will also include performances by Confirmation, a Boston-based gospel ensemble.
Gospel music performed by Confirmation will also provide a historical note on the day, specifically with a presentation of “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” according to David Coleman, Confirmation founder and director of choral music at the Dana Hall School in Wellsley.
The song was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1899 that is today regarded by many as a kind of African American national anthem, said Coleman. However, “none of the words reference race at all,” Coleman said. “It’s not on the issue of race. It’s on the larger issue of humanity.”
The event also features a return to the church’s “Soul Food” brunch, which the church is bringing back to life moving to a more mainstream menu for a few years.
A sample menu for the day lists the following items: deep fried turkey, Virginia ham, harmony grits, biscuits, gravy and more.
“When we went away from it, the reports said, ‘Good event, but missed the food,’” Wynn said.
“What we’re trying to do is give a flavor of us, being a predominantly African American church,” Myers added. “We’re trying to share a bit of our culture. That’s why we started having these traditional foods.”
Beyond the menu, the day will serve as a reminder for many and an educational opportunity for others who may not have a full understanding of why Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday.
“It’s one of our anchor events,” Wynn said. “It’s really about a day of service, a day of learning. It’s really an entire church effort.”
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