Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, GA --
Hundreds gathered at the Base Chapel aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jan. 10. The high-spirited program began with the usual courtesies, including a welcome, invocation and musical selections by the MCLB Albany gospel choir. The choir, for the first time, consisted of a diverse group of base personnel.
Jo Neal Freeman, wife of Dr. Everette Freeman, president, Albany State University, who was originally scheduled to speak, served as the guest speaker in his absence. Prior to her speech, Johnny Litman, associate counsel, Marine Corps Logistics Command, energized the attendees by reciting two of Dr. King’s famous speeches - one given on August 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial entitled, “I Have a Dream.” He concluded with his final speech given on Aug. 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated, titled, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”
Litman said his family has a deep history in the Civil Rights Movement of Albany, Ga., and briefly recalled his first encounter more than 50 years ago. “When Doctor King first arrived in Albany on December 15, 1961, he came to visit for just a few days and showed up at the Old Mount Zion Baptist Church,” Litman said. “Doctor King didn’t want to speak the first night he showed up, so my father was asked to speak to the crowd. He preached a sermon entitled, ‘Why sit ye here and die?’” Litman said his father lost his job at a former, popular department store because of his speech and support of King and said that incident not only had an economic impact on his family, but a psychological one as well.
Freeman framed her speech around a letter written by Coretta Scott King to her husband. An excerpt from the letter read, “please share this with my many supporters at the base and extend to all my best wishes for a better year. Tell the base personnel and especially the members of Blacks in Government that I appreciate their commitment to continue this fine King Day celebration year after year ... “In your most recent email, you asked my thoughts about the shape of the civil rights movement today and tomorrow and if I thought there was cause for pessimism or optimism. All over the United States and elsewhere, I see unmistakable signs that the struggle for justice and equality has taken on renewed energy and vigor ...” Freeman also quoted an excerpt from a December 2011 editorial written by Earl Graves, Sr., chairman and founder of Black Enterprise magazine.
“It’s fair to say that we have done justice to King’s memory. But the truth is: America has not done justice to his dream. In fact, I and the rest of King’s generation, now between the ages of 70 and 85, owe Dr. King an apology ...” Various parts of Freeman’s speech purposefully admonished African-Americans for having misplaced priorities and not doing enough to lead people to the promised land of freedom, equality and the full measure of the American dream. However, with cautious optimism, it encouraged everyone in attendance to fight for social justice worldwide and seize the initiative to make things better. Freeman said she believes Dr. King would be absolutely thrilled that his legacy and memory was being honored in this way. “To hear his speeches and know how much those things meant to people and how those words still resound in the mind of all Americans would make him proud,” she said. “Doctor King was not only concerned about those who were poor or disadvantaged, but all of mankind. That’s what made him so awesome.” “This is our 19th annual program and I am confident that Doctor King is looking upon us with a smile to see that his legacy is being honored aboard MCLB Albany,” Dr. Jeffrey Wilson, president, BIG, said. “He told us to look at where we are as a people and where we should be going. He would be proud of the more than 200 diverse people gathered here today.”