Voices of Justice: MLK Breakfast Features Diverse Insights on Justice and Culture

Date Posted: 2/14/2013

The continuation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s quest for justice and the second inauguration of the first African-American president inspired the theme: “The Inauguration of Justice: Reflections on Justice and Culture” for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast. More than 350 persons attended the event at The Power Center in Southwest Houston. This year’s program, hosted by Black Methodists for Church Renewal, included a diverse group of speakers: Rev. Diane McGehee, Director of the Texas Annual Conference’s Center for Missional Excellence; Ms. Barbara Moore, member of Native American Ministries; Mr. Ephraim del Pozo, Hispanic Ministries; Mrs. Ruth Gonda representing Pacific Islander Asian and Rev. Dr. Sherry Daniels, Senior Pastor of Norfolk UMC in Norfolk, Virginia.  Each spoke on the need for justice as it affects different cultures. Also ministering were the Youth Advocate dancers of Gethsemane UMC and the BMCR Youth Mass Choir.

 

Rev. McGehee ushered in the hour by dispelling the myth that because she is an Anglo-American with “white privilege” injustices would escape her. She shared her personal story of lessons learned as a child from her father who suffered many injustices in the south because of his affiliation with Dr. King. She also highlighted the need for action from the universal church and community to help curb rising human trafficking, mass incarceration, hunger, poverty, homelessness, economic bondage, poor education and other justice issues in America and abroad.  Rev. McGehee reminded us of biblical references to justice and who we are called to be. Thus, it’s not enough to just talk about the needs, we must take action. On justice for all, she stated, “Our work is not done yet.” 

 

The audience was brought to a state of absolute silence as Ms. Moore, a member of First UMC Alvin, guided them on a timeline through more than 500 years of inhumane treatment, broken promises, many trials and harsh injustices toward Native Americans. She examined indigenous experiences from the time that Columbus took the wrong turn to the Americas to present day inequities. Moore, who has Cherokee ancestors and is a member of the Muskogee Creek Tribe of Florida, was dressed in cultural attire. She passionately reminded the crowd of the Native American’s time of slavery and the injustices that occur when one group is stripped of its customs and traditions. She described how such injustice causes a group to find it difficult to recover and maintain cultural normalcy; yet, they are expected to assimilate into another’s way of life.

 

In his speech, Attorney del Pozo a member of ChristWay Community UMC spoke with a wealth of knowledge about the immigrant of Spanish speaking heritage in America. His goal was to dispel the untruth that immigrants become a drain on the economy because of the amount of “free commodities” that are available to them. In fact, much of the economy is sustained by the billions of dollars gained as a result of underpaid labor and wages earned by immigrant workers, many from Latin countries. Mr. del Pozo also refuted the idea that most Hispanics in America are “illegal,” pointing out that 63% of the immigrant population is in America legally. Accordingly, there should be more inclusion of Hispanics in upper level positions within the church, businesses and all levels of government, he said.             

 

Ms. Ruth Gonda, a young adult ambassador for Christ, was very perceptive about seeing the need and equally as compassionate about serving those in need and less fortunate. Ms. Gonda, whose parents migrated from the Philippines, explained the need for food, housing, health care and other issues there. She captivated the audience with an interpretive dance that described a slide presentation of life in the

Philippines, which showed services being provided by American mission workers with the organization “Together in Hope” and her participation in mission trips to such marginalized areas. 

Native Houstonian, Rev. Dr. Sherry Daniels challenged the group through her topic “It’s Time.” She reminded us of scriptures and quotes from Dr. King that should lead us toward an altered state of mind when we talk about justice for all. She stated that we must be willing to “step outside the box or even throw the box away when it comes to ministry” to those less fortunate. She indicated that we should be willing to offer the services that people need, instead of those that we want to give.  Daniels then shared the need for and fruitfulness of a ministry of her church that assists families of incarcerated persons, who are unable to make visits to see loved ones. This ministry fulfills a community need, as opposed to only going to the prison for Bible study with inmates. Dr. Daniels concluded with a quote from Dr. King: “Whatever affects one indirectly, affects all directly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.” Yes, “It’s Time” to be about justice.

 

Dr. King would have greatly affirmed the presentation of the Youth Advocate Dancers. The culturally-diverse group of young men from Gethsemane UMC danced in their own creative way to the glory of God. Audience members were touched as they explained, “We all have many talents and gifts to offer.”  They praised their connection with the church for the support that allows them to be who they are through their own creativity which energized the audience.  They expressed gratefulness for being received in such a loving way.  The BMCR Youth Mass Choir again ministered with artful excellence. More than 40 youth from nine churches, directed by Mrs. Felicia Green Johnson, sang to the delight of the crowd.

 

Our prayer is that we all understand that the call for justice is Bible-based and that Dr. King was just a spokesperson. The diverse testimonies hopefully allow the idea of justice to prick our conscious when we overlook issues that inevitably press down those that are precious in God’s sight.