King’s son to speak at ceremony

May 5, 2019

Discrimination : even the subtle form in Indiana : should be met with “a divine discontent,” Martin Luther King Jr. once said.

It was 1963, and King was standing in Fort Wayne when he made the suggestion in front of a capacity crowd, at least 30% white, at the Scottish Rite auditorium.

A local pastor is praying and planning for a diverse audience in June when Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the slain civil rights leader, comes to Fort Wayne to continue his father’s plea for fairness and equality.

“It’s a major coup to get his namesake to come and be with us,” said the Rev. Bill McGill, pastor of Imani Baptist Temple and event organizer.

The free but ticketed event, “Sharing His Name & Carrying His Flame,” will be at 7 p.m. June 5 at Embassy Theatre. That’s the same date Martin Luther King Jr. spoke downtown. McGill said King will speak behind the same lectern his father did.

The evening will include performances from gospel music recording artists Yolanda Adams and Tramaine Hawkins.

“You don’t get Yolanda and Tramaine in our city on the same night for free,” McGill said.

Adams has won five Grammy Awards, four Dove Awards, one American Music Award, and seven NAACP Image Awards. She recently received a Congressional Citation for her advocacy and charitable work. In 2009, Billboard named her the No.1 gospel artist of the decade.

Hawkins gained widespread fame with the crossover hit “Oh, Happy Day.” She went on to become known as “The Gospel Princess” with a solid solo career, and has received two Grammy Awards and two Dove Awards. She has also been inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame.

Sweetwater Sound and Parkview Health are helping to cover event costs.

The Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne is a co-sponsor.

“In an hour when anti-Semitism is running rampant across our nation and abroad, the inclusive message of Dr. King is needed now more than ever,” Jaki Schreir, executive director of the federation, said in a statement.

McGill said he will provide 56 tickets : symbolic of the number of years since King’s appearance here : to 26 churches of various faiths and racial makeup to help ensure a diverse crowd.

Along with other tickets that will be available, he hopes to fill the Embassy, which has a capacity for more than 2,400.

King III graduated from his father’s alma mater, Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1979 and has devoted his life to promoting civil rights at home and global human rights abroad. He has worked to eradicate what his father identified as the “triple evils of racism, militarism and poverty,” a news release said.

Reflecting on current race relations, King said in a statement the vision preached by his father was “that his four little children would no longer live in a nation where they would be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. However, sadly and far too frequently, the color of one’s skin remains a license to profile, to arrest, and to even murder with no regard for the content of one’s character.”

McGill said commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s sole speaking visit in Fort Wayne “provides a golden opportunity for earnest and honest reflection by the entire community” on the work that remains.

“We are working very hard to become a city of destination, but to accomplish that we must be recognized as a city that’s welcoming and united against discrimination.”

McGill said there will be an opportunity for the younger King to lay a wreath at the memorial bridge that bears his father’s name and is a reminder of his historic June 5, 1963, visit.

“Moving forward,” McGill said, “I intend to commemorate that as an annual day.”