Scores of community members turned out Monday to both celebrate past accomplishments and look to the challenges that remain in achieving “justice for all” as Sedalia marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The day’s observance began with a free community breakfast at Sacred Heart School cafeteria, followed by a public ceremony at Sacred Heart Church and a march to the Sedalia Municipal Building, where Mayor Elaine Horn read a proclamation formally recognizing the spirit of the day. The separate events featured speakers, as well as musical performances by Carla Halane, the Beard Family Singers, the Boys & Girls Club of West Central Missouri and Amigos de Cristo youth.
Billy Foster, pastor at Bethel Family Church, acted as emcee at the church and noted the importance of supporting and mentoring today’s youth, saying “Without participation, the dream dies.”
“These are our next generation of leaders,” Foster said. “Make sure you are giving your heart and investing your life in someone else.”
Foster’s remarks were followed by Calvin Pritchard, minister at Taylor Chapel United Methodist Church, who told the crowd to “remember, reflect and appreciate what has been accomplished and what is yet to be accomplished because of the sacrifice and influence of (King).”
“(King) inspired a people and a nation to change,” Pritchard said, noting that “we have people with us today that experienced” a racially segregated United States.
Pritchard said that “progress has been made,” referring to the inauguration of President Barack Obama for his second term on the same day we recognize King’s birthday and changes in law and lifestyle that have come about since King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.
However, Pritchard said, Obama’s election and re-election were also marred by “the opening of old wounds” through attempts to “undermine our most fundamental right — the right to vote.”
“Every generation must learn from the past, lest we be doomed to repeat it,” Pritchard said.
At city hall, Horn told attendees that King was one of many “reassuring voices calling out to others that it was OK to speak out.”
“It is now our charge and duty to protect every American’s right to let freedom ring,” Horn said.
Rhonda Chalfant, Sedalia-Pettis County NAACP president, wrapped up the day’s events, telling the crowd that “We must be willing to stand up for one another.”
“When one of us is in danger, we are all at risk,” Chalfant said. “When the rights and safety of one individual is threatened, we are all threatened.”