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Valley churches serve others to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Motown releases Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech as a digital single
Posted at 5:57 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-18 21:34:46-05

Many people had MLK Day off of work, and some in the Valley chose to serve others to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"It's about making it a day on, not a day off," said Richard Crews.

The African American Christian Clergy Coalition (AACCC) had churches and congregation members volunteer across the Valley, from Goodyear to Mesa.

The day looked different due to COVID. Instead of a large march and festival, the day featured masks, gloves and social distancing.

"We didn’t want to stay at home. We wanted to come and do something positive," said Dr. Warren Stewart Sr., pastor of First Institutional Baptist Church and chairperson of the AACCC.

"I wanted to do something to serve the community, so I decided to come," said congregation member Claudia Wade, who said she watched Dr. King's funeral when she was a kindergartner in Louisiana.

Dr. Stewart, Wade and others spent the mornings at the Human Services Campus in downtown Phoenix, helping provide clothes, blankets, jackets and hygiene products to men and women experiencing homelessness.

"To see people lining up for a blanket, a jacket, a shirt -- that shows you that we have not reached a place in America where everybody has the essentials. And we have got to change that," said Dr. Stewart. "America is the richest nation in the world and should not have people in poverty like this."

Dr. King's dreams have not been fully realized though.

In his 1964 Noble Peace Prize acceptance speech, he said, “There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.”

"Have we failed? Yes. We can and we need to do better," said Richard Crews, Director of Programs for the Human Services Campus."

Poverty and homelessness still exist in every American city. Racial injustice is also still prevalent in America.

"MLK was in fact a protester. And MLK was someone that was disliked by half of the country at the time of his death," said Zarra, a leader with Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro.

In 1963 Dr. King led the march on Washington for jobs and freedom.

In 2020 Americans marched for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and Dion Johnson.

In the first few weeks of 2021, there have been riots and rallies where White Supremacy has been proudly flaunted by some involved.

"The moment that we are in right now, either we can heal or we will be in a situation where that won’t be an option," said Crews.

"His message was not a one-day message," said Pastor Brian Wright with the Citadel of Praise Christian Church.

"Dr. King talked about love, peace, unity, and non-violence. That’s what this nation and world needs more than ever right now," said Dr. Stewart. "Dr. King says choose chaos or community. We are choosing community."

It is community-fighting for equality year-round - by all ages, races, and backgrounds - that will honor the life of Dr. King and help his life's work become more of a reality.

"His dream doesn’t have to be a dream. It can be a reality. But we have to do the work," said Wade.

"I think Dr. King would say the fight still continues," said Pastor Wright.