Songs and words of inspiration filled the air Wednesday night in Oxford as believers in a dream packed the Historic Old Church for the Oxford College annual Celebration of The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The tone for the evening was set by Oxford College Chaplain Rev. Lyn Pace who at the end of his opening remarks implored those in attendance to do more than enjoy themselves.
“Think deeply, feel strongly and commit yourselves to new ways of understanding and creating the Beloved Community because frankly, now we need it now more than ever,” he said.
The welcoming remarks were provided by Oxford College’s Student Body President Muhammad Naveed. After Naveed’s remarks, those in attendance rose to sing the anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
After the song, Sean Eagan of Covington and the College’s First Year MLK Scholar read from ‘While the World Watched’, Carolyn Maull McKinstry’s book about the September of 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four of her friends. He was followed by Oxford College staff member Frad Barry, who read Dr. King’s final speech, delivered in Memphis April 3, 1968, “I Have Been to the Mountaintop.”
Following a selection by Voices of Praise, the Oxford College Gospel Choir, the President of the Oxford College Black Student Alliance, Maya R. Foster, introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Covington native and Oxford College alum, Rev. Avis Williams.
Rev. Williams, with her mother retired educator Emogene Williams in attendance, spoke of her affection for Oxford College and her family’s remembrances of Dr. King. She also spoke of our obligation to each other.
“Service to others and service to our community, especially on behalf of those unable to speak for themselves,” she said, “That should be the mantra for all of our lives. But not just one day of the year, but all the time.
“We must answer the call to confront injustice everywhere as Dr. King said, and as he did and we must become champions of justice – not just some of the time, but all of the time. Our communities are inextricably bound together and we’ve got to make this happen. Not tomorrow, or next week. We’ve got to start right now.”
Those words would be a recurring theme to her remarks.
Rev. Williams told all in attendance they were called to be there. She said now is the time to standup for what is right.
“We can’t wait any longer to stand up against injustice and discrimination,” she said, “We can’t wait and longer to stand up against senseless violence in our societies’ streets, but also in our societies’ suites and offices. We cannot wait to act righteous- let’s do it now.”
She concluded with a charge for the audience.
“The time is now to do what’s right- To stand up for righteousness, to stand up for social justice, to build the Beloved Community. There’s still work to do. So let’s do it now,” she said to a standing ovation.
After Rev. Williams concluded, The Interdenominational Choir performed two songs. The choir is a group of musicians and singers of different faiths from the Covington area who gather every January to rehearse and perform at local events surrounding the annual celebration of Dr. King’s birthday and life.
After the choir, Oxford College sophomore Rhyan Davis issued The Challenge to those in attendance. She was followed by Oxappella, the Oxford College Acappella Choir.
After Dr. Douglas A. Hicks, Dean of Oxford College of Emory University delivered the closing Blessing, the diverse crowd-, old and young, Black and White, Asian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern exited the building into the night, with light from the Old Church illuminating their way. It wasn’t that hard to imagine the Beloved Community might actually one day exist. And for one night in January, in Oxford, maybe it did.