By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — People of various races and faiths gathered Jan. 21 in Sacred Heart Cathedral to celebrate civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. A Quad-City area civil rights exhibit was displayed in the cathedral’s gathering space for the day. Sacred Heart parishioner Jim Collins gave the main speech.
PUNCH (People Uniting Neighbors and Churches) and Friends of Martin Luther King sponsored the events.
The Rev. Jay Wolin, pastor of Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities, welcomed all to the annual event to celebrate an icon of civil rights and of humanity. Rabbi Emeritus Henry Karp of Temple Emanuel in Davenport gave the invocation.
Father Rich Adam, the cathedral’s pastor, said: “We are honored to host this memorial of not only the sacrifices of Dr. King, but of the civil rights achievements realized and continuing to be realized coming from his dream.” Fr. Adam said he hoped “that we can all advance to renew our combined efforts to better assure civility and racial brotherhood and sisterhood in our community, nation and the world.”
Fr. Adam noted that King visited Davenport in 1965 to receive the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award. King said at that time that “All life is interrelated. Somehow we are all part of an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one, directly affects all indirectly.”
In his talk, Collins, a retired Deere & Co. executive and PUNCH representative, told of growing up in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). He shared a humorous point about the difference in the use of the word “Amen” at Sacred Heart Cathedral and churches of other denominations. “When Fr. Rich says ‘Amen,’ we respond in unison, ‘Amen.’ Amen means so be it. And that means it’s the end of the sermon. Not so in the AME, Baptist and Pentecostal churches. ‘Amen’ means we’re just getting started!” The crowd laughed.
Collins said it’s important for everyone to enter into conversation, regardless of race or creed. “We need to help understand how we are more alike than different.” He asked the audience to examine their own lives. “Do you see the glass half empty or half full?” Then ask yourself, “Why is the glass that way — half empty or half full?”
He told the audience that King saw what Rosa Parks did to lead to the end of segregation in busing. But King also recognized that plenty more needed to be done, including equal opportunity for employment, voting and housing. Successes have been achieved in those areas, Collins said. “But what is the price of success?”
He said it is a full commitment, sustainability and the determination to keep moving. “Success means work. We all must make sacrifices” to be successful. He pointed out the civil rights display. “This is what we celebrate today.”
People of color have jobs today that were not possible 50 years ago. While successes have been achieved, King’s dream has not yet been fully realized. “What day of the week are we most distant from one another?” Collins asked. Sunday, he said is the day when people go to their separate churches. But they come together the rest of the week through PUNCH and other groups working together on issues affecting their neighbors.
“It’s not just talk, but doing something about it. You have to have a conversation. Seek out and begin that difficult conversation. Be civil, patient, sincere, have intent and understanding, show respect and love,” Collins said. King, who was assassinated in 1968, said work still needed to be done. “What are you doing?” Collins asked those in attendance.
He encouraged audience members to be a mentor, befriend someone who is elderly or volunteer at a food pantry, garden or with other projects. “Hearts are warmed by generosity. Get involved and make our community a better place.”
Minister Roy Horton Jr. played “Lift Every Voice” and invited all to sing along. The Rev. Ralph Kelly, president of PUNCH, encouraged people to strive to be the best they can be.