It is only fitting the Community of Concerned Clergy hold a march honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
Its president, Rev. Noble Williams of Greater Mount Zion Baptist Church, says the civil rights leader was a force for positive change, an advocate of justice for all people and that fighting injustice locally is the goal of the Phenix City organization.
In an advocate role, the group has taken on both the Phenix City Council and the Phenix City Board of Education on issues.
“Dr. King said injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and we believe that,” Williams said of the 17-member group formed about three years ago. “We are ready to speak out on whatever we perceive to be an injustice.”
He emphasized the group is “not political.”
The march Saturday begins at 10:45 a.m. and all are invited to participate. It starts at the Russell County Courthouse on Broad Street and finishes at Franchise Missionary Baptist Church on Dillingham Street.
“It is only about a mile and much of it is downhill,” Williams said.
And there will be stops for prayer along the way.
Those interested in participating should get to the courthouse early.
“People are invited to park at the church and be transported to the starting point,” Williams said.
At noon, the church will have a special service with retired Judge Charles Price of Montgomery, Ala., speaking. Price spent more than 30 years as a circuit judge.
This is the second year for the march which Williams said drew about three hundred last year. Organizers are hoping to see more people come out this year.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which honors the civil rights leader’s Jan. 15 birthday, is Monday.
“We did not want to have to compete with all the other events that day,” Williams said, explaining the Saturday date for the march.
Asked why for the King birthday celebration is important, Williams replied, “We honor someone who cared about making life better for everyone, not just African Americans. We have made great strides but there is still injustice so there is work to be done. We will never be whole until there is justice for all.”
Williams was asked if it is important for the church to get involved in social issues and he said it must be remembered that the civil rights movement with King began in church.
“The church should be the leader in every community, in every city,” he said.
Williams called it a “moral responsibility” for the church to get involved.
“If our nation wants to get justice for everyone it must come though the church,” he said. “Our country has declined because God is not the center of our lives. We need to get back to ‘in God we trust.’”
And it is good for clergy to work together.
“There is strength in numbers,” he said.
When asked about problems in the community, Williams said adults “must be ambassadors of love.”
“We are most concerned about the violence taking place, the needless killings. We are seeking a solution,” Williams said.
He said members of the group hope to serve as mentors to boys in the city.
“We want to show them there are adults who care about them,” he said.
Williams recalled King saying, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
He said racism is still a big part of the world and he is afraid too many young people do not know about King and the battle for civil rights and justice.
“It is the role of adults to teach them,” he said. “I don’t think we do a good job imparting information about the civil rights struggle to our children.”
In a basement room at his church, he created a Sit-in Café. Designed like a diner from the 1960s, its purpose is to stimulate conversation about that time in American history. The walls are adorned with black and white photographs depicting the civil rights movement. One shows a man drinking from a “colored people” water cooler. Another shows blacks sitting in the back of a bus. There are depressed black children standing in a cotton field and black adults at a lunch counter. King is shown delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Williams said a goal of the Community of Concerned Clergy is to get representatives from the city government, school system, police, etc. to get together for round table discussions about how to make things better.
“We need to talk, he said.