WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Wichita held several events Monday to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. on the federal holiday honoring his work as a civil rights leader. However, the Greater Wichita Ministerial League (GWML) held its annual celebration virtually because of the continuing coronavirus pandemic. People could watch it online at noon. If they missed it, it is still available on YouTube.

The GWML service began with the national anthem, spiritual songs, scripture and prayer featuring pastors from several churches. It also included a message from Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple.

“In the nearly 54 years since the assassination of Dr. King, progress has been made towards his dream, but there is still a long way to go because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and there is still a lot of injustice in our country,” Whipple said.

Both Whipple and Wichita State University President Dr. Richard Muma quoted a 1957 speech from King: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”

Muma said all public universities should be asking that question. He said WSU is answering the question with action.

“We’re providing scholarships for new freshmen in Shocker neighborhood who demonstrate exceptional need,” he said. “We built the Molecular Diagnostics Lab to help our businesses and government with COVID-19 testing so that they can continue to operate during the pandemic. And, most importantly, we’re listening for ways we can help and ways we can innovate and ways we can serve.”

Students from Gordon Parks Academy performed meaningful skits during the ceremony. Then the GWML presented its annual awards:

  • MLK Dreams and Vision Award – Presented to the Wichita Black Nurses Association
  • Spirit of Unity Award – Presented to Larry Burks Sr., president, NAACP Wichita Branch
  • GWML President’s Legacy Awards – Presented to four people:
    • Pastor Roderick Houston, Harvest Tabernacle Christian Fellowship, Greater Faith Christian Church
    • Bishop Wade Moore, Urban Preparatory Academy
    • Rev. Kevin Andrews, Agape Center of Hope
    • Donna Pearson McClish, Pearson Farms Common Ground and Growers

After more prayer and song, Dr. Leroy Adams Jr., Providence Baptist Church of San Francisco, delivered his speech about the importance of strength and love instead of hate and vengeance. He quoted King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech of 1964: “…man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation.”

Dr. Leroy Adams Jr., Providence Baptist Church of San Francisco, speaks during the annual Greater Wichita Ministerial League MLK Day service, Jan. 17, 2022. (Courtesy: Greater Wichita Ministerial League)

“It takes the power and the presence of God to sustain you and me as we deal with a world that is full of hatred, racism, bigotry, injustice, inequality and, yes, hate crimes,” Adams said.

He said that hate and wrath are too great of a burden to bear and vengeance is not healthy to anyone.

“There’s nothing wrong to be angry,” Adams said. “We all get angry and, certainly in such a time in which we have lived over the last two years to this present moment, we have a lot to be angry about, especially when it comes down to hate crimes and injustice and inequality.”

He mentioned a number of cases in the news of Black people who have died unjust deaths. Adams said it is OK to be angry but not to hate. He said love is what is needed and that takes strength.

“We’ve got to love, and we’ve got to bless,” he said. “We’ve got to do good as Jesus said and we’ve got to pray fervently, and I’m talking about personally, so that wrath and vengeance would not take a seat in our heart where it becomes a permanent residence in our lives, and so yes, we must do, we must hear what Jesus said because it breaks and it dissolves, again, wrath and vengeance.”

“No life is less important or beneath another, nor should be disregarded or disrespected in any way because of their race or because of their creed or because of their gender,” Adams said. “All people are precious in God’s sight.”

He went on to say that people should try to build bridges instead of tearing one another down.

“We have to find a way to come together wherever we may be regardless of our skin, regardless of our race, regardless of our social-economical status, regardless where we live, whether we live in the hood or live in the projects or live in the suburbs,” he said. “There has to be a bridge that allows us to come together and love one another.”

The Rev. Dr. C. Richard Kirkendoll, president of the Greater Wichita Ministerial League, ended the annual service by thanking those who took part. He then had a message for everyone.

“Be safe, social distance, sanitize, make sure you have your mask on and that you’re vaccinated and when you qualify, get your booster shot,” he said. “We’ve been challenged and commissioned to help keep the dream alive. May God bless you and keep you is my prayer.”