More than 100 people came to remember slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in prayer and song on Monday during the seventh annual celebration of his life at Andover Baptist Church.
The Unity Choir started the 11 a.m. service by singing “Jesus Promised He’ll Take Care of Me,” which drew people to their feet, clapping and singing along.
Attorney Damon Smith, the deputy general counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, delivered the keynote speech. Smith is the younger brother of church first lady Tesha Myers, the wife of Andover Baptist’s pastor, Rev. Lyndon A. Myers.
Smith spoke of King’s influence on both his professional and personal life during the energetic and poignant ceremony.
“His legacy is fundamental to who I am,” Smith said.
During the ceremony, various members of the congregation stood and recited powerful quotes from civil rights leaders, including Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela. There were also performances by the group Choral Majority and a liturgical dance performance on the church altar by Lakyia Burnes and Claudia Hyppolite-Fils.
Smith said he’s grateful for what King did to shape his life and he and his wife are also instilling those same values in their children.
“I didn’t know what I was capable of until I (was) inspired to do my best,” Smith said.
Smith described King as a “drum major for justice,” pointing to his courageous and tireless work to improve economic opportunity, equality and voting rights for all.
Throughout his lifetime (1929-1968), King worked tireless for civil rights and is probably best known for his “I Have a Dream” speech delivered in Washington, D.C. to a quarter million people. At age 35, he became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. On April 4, 1968 he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.