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MLK celebration in The Woodlands is a tribute to compassion and service

January 21, 2019

The sanctuary at The Woodlands United Methodist Church on Monday was filled at noon with hundreds of people for the 31st annual commemorative celebration honoring civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.

The ceremony, hosted by Impact Church in The Woodlands, has been a community staple for years, and that passion was evident in the attendees’ presence and excitement during speeches, music and rythmic dancing.

The Honorable Teta V. Banks, president of the United Nations Association of the USA and a former executive director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association, guided the celebration by tying its musical elements to the speeches.

“Songs of praise and faith have been the soundtrack of our history…from the darkest times in our 400-year history through enslavement to freedom, throughout the civil rights movement and now through the human rights movement,” Banks said.

A children’s choir and special needs ministry choir both sang numbers that resounded throughout the sanctuary. The adult choir this year was The Woodlands Area Mass King Choir, and singers from the group led the crowd in gospel songs and moments of celebratory worship. Thunderous applause greeted all the performers.

The Rev. Ed Robb, the senior pastor of The Woodlands United Methodist Church, gave the commemorative tribute.

Robb addressed the crowd by sharing personal anecdotes of his memories of King Jr.’s life, even getting emotional from the pulpit at one point when he recalled how he learned about the civil rights icon’s death.

Robb then transitioned to spur on the crowd, urging all in attendance to dwell on what King Jr. might say if he were alive today.

“I think Dr. King would say, ‘Never forget justice is worth the sacrifice…Remember that no one can take your value from you. No government can rob you of your sacred worth. Earthy governments come and go, but the word of God stands forever,’” Robb said.

Robb encouraged attendees to continue working for justice, remain faithful to the cause and stay committed to righteousness, truth and love.

“Dr. King died committed to the cause…Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart,” Robb said.

During the awards portion of the ceremony, three elementary students were honored as poster award winners and 10 high school students from area schools received scholarships from an essay competition.

The renowned Drum Major awards were then given to siblings in surprise to both of them. Reed Kotalik, 9, and Rafe Kotalik, 13, were honored as people who embody King Jr.’s values.

Reed, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, has been a national champion at track and field events as well as an ambassador with the Make LemonAide Foundation for Cerebral Palsy. He has authored two books about being a nationally competitive runner despite his diagnosis.

“It was pretty great, I was really surprised,” Reed said.

Rafe was honored with the second Drum Major award. He became an Eagle Scout last year, a rare feat at his young age, while receiving all 137 Boy Scouts of America badges along the way. He was praised for his sense of service for his help in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the wildfires in California last year.

To cap off the celebration, Banks echoed the theme of the day by calling the attendees to continue in strength, compassion, forgiveness and faith just as King Jr. did.

“We must continue to remember that the ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence of the good people,” Banks said. “The ultimate measure of men and women is not how they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but how they stand in times of challenge and controversy.”

jane.stueckemann@chron.com

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