40th Anniversary of the King assassination

Many churches and cities are marking the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today.

The AP reports from Memphis:

On the 40th anniversary of his assassination, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was remembered Friday in the city where he died as a man who came to Memphis “to lead us to a better way.”

Presidential candidates, civil rights leaders, labor activists and thousands of citizens were coming together to honor King for his devotion to racial equality and economic justice.

King was cut down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968, while helping organize a strike by Memphis sanitation workers, then some of the poorest of the city’s working poor.

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represented the workers then and now, marched Friday from their downtown headquarters to the motel.

A line of several hundred people carrying umbrellas in a steady rain set off on the mile-long route.

“Dr. King was like Moses,” said Leslie Moore, a 61-year-old sanitation worker who began working for the city in 1968. “God gave Moses the assignment to lead the children of Israel across the Red Sea. He sent Dr. King here to lead us to a better way.”

Read the story here.

The American Prospect carries on essay by Kai Wright on the message of King and its words for today.

The Washington Post discusses King’s legacy:

Forty years after King was gunned down by an assassin in Memphis, it is this sharper-edged figure who has come into focus again. To mark today’s anniversary, several scholarly reports have been released charting the nation’s uneven social and economic progress during the past 40 years. Some scholars and former King associates are using the occasion to zero in on the two issues — war and poverty — that were consuming him at the time of his death.

Both have particular resonance now: The United States is engaged in a war in Iraq that has grown increasingly unpopular, and the poor — despite the concerns highlighted by Hurricane Katrina and the subprime mortgage crisis — are as voiceless as they were in King’s day, advocates contend.

“His challenge was much bigger than being nice,” said Taylor Branch, author of a three-volume history, “America in the King Years.” “It was even bigger than race. It was whether we take our national purpose seriously, which is the full promise of equal citizenship.”

Video, photos and more at More Than An Icon.

Also the United Church of Christ is calling for a nationwide discussion on race according to Newsweek

The United Church of Christ, the parent denomination of Barack Obama’s church, announced Thursday that it will begin a conversation on racial issues beginning next month in response to sermons by Obama’s pastor that were critical of the U.S.

Leaders of Obama’s church, Trinity United Church of Christ, meanwhile, asked reporters for respect, saying threats and a media onslaught are disrupting worship at the South Side church. The church has increased security in response to threatening telephone calls, letters and e-mails, they said.

At a news conference, the United Church of Christ’s national leadership said the furor over comments by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright demonstrated the complexity of racial issues in the country and the need for churches nationwide to talk about them.

“The members of Trinity United Church of Christ are going through a very difficult time right now. The intersection of politics, religion and race has heightened our awareness of how easy it is for conversations about race to be anything but sacred,” said the Rev. John Thomas, the denomination’s president.

The Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, echoed the call for a national discussion, beginning May 18. Kinnamon said he objects to seeing Trinity portrayed as an extremist sect, saying it and the UCC “are part of the wider Christian community.”

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