2019 Wright's MLK service (copy) (copy)

Wright’s AME Church hosted a virtual commemoration of the live of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, Jan. 17, to honor the holiday that bares his name.

ELKTON — Although the pandemic forced the celebration online, Elkton’s Wright’s AME Church hosted a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 17.

“After today’s service we are hopeful that we will engage once again in 2023 at a church with a major breakfast fellowship and live service next year,” Elkton Town Commissioner Charles Givens, said to kick off the event.

Wright’s AME brought in a mix of musical performers singing gospel songs and anthems of the civil rights movement. The 105 Voices of History National HBCU choir sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song often referred to as the Black National anthem. The Morgan State University Choir sang “Glory,” with the Wright’s Combined Choir singing “Every Praise” by singer Keith Carr.

Speaker Virgil Boysaw Jr. the Drug Free Cecil Coalition coordinator began his speech by discussing King’s address of striking sanitation workers in Memphis Tennessee, who were calling for better working conditions and wages. King was tired, and planned to have his friend Rev. Ralph Abernathy speak in his place to the over 2,000 people waiting for King.

The crowd was immediately disappointed, and Abernathy called King and said “they didn’t come to hear me, they came to hear you.” King then gave his legendary speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” the last speech he gave before he was assassinated the following day by a white racist.

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead, but it really doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop and I don’t mind,” Boysaw said, quoting King. “Like anybody I would like to live a long life, longevity has its place, but I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”

Boysaw also connected King’s life to the work that many of the public officials attending the event do in Cecil County. While leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott King would get constant death threats from white supremacists, after one person threatened to blow up his house he was more shaken than usual.

“He put his hands in his face and he prayed, and that’s important,” Boysaw said. “Those of you who are leaders, who are leading schools and health departments and police departments, sometimes you have to put your head in your hands and pray when things get tough.”

King said that he was losing his courage in the face of the constant threat. Boysaw said an inner voice then came to King, telling him to stand up for truth, justice, and righteousness with a promise that “I will be by your side.”

“How times have you and I been doing our jobs and at time lose faith and lose courage due to the mounting pressures that come on us,” Boysaw said.

Three days later, King’s house was firebombed. Boysaw emphasized King’s ability to rally together a mass non-violent movement, even in the face of violence from his enemies.

Boysaw defined King as a servant leader, who led from the front, instead of giving orders from behind.

“Those of you who are leaders out there, you have to deny yourself so that your aim is not about you, it’s about your brother, your sister, the people who you serve,” Boysaw said.

Boysaw also emphasized King’s desire to do God’s will, which Boysaw defined as denying oneself, taking up the cross, and following Jesus Christ. Boysaw said that Christ suffered for righteousness’ sake, and that his followers should expect to suffer like him the principles of self-sacrificing love and the gospel of grace.

“Dr. King was rejected in many cases, he was looked at as a person who didn’t know what he was doing. He was put to shame in many cases, but he still pressed on,” Boysaw said.

Many Cecil County Leaders attended the event, from Cecil College president Mary Way Bolt, the entire membership of the Cecil County Council, County Executive Danielle Hornberger and Superintendent of Cecil County Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Lawson, among others.

“May this be a day of service. May you go out today wherever you find yourself and help someone, as Dr. Martin Luther King served us, as Jesus came and served us may we be of service to someone so our living shall not be in vain,” Wright’s Rev. R Kevin Brown said to conclude the day.

Readers interested watching the service can go to the Elkton Wright’s AME Church YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NrlH-moi60.

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