January 12, 2005
Martin Luther King Day is more a 'holy day'
than a 'holiday,' activist Joseph Lowery tells crowd
By Louise Donahue
Civil rights activist Joseph Lowery delivered a message of
hope leavened with humor at the 21st annual Rev. Martin Luther
King Jr. Memorial Convocation on Monday, January 10.
The Rev. Joseph Lowery urged the
nation to honor what Martin Luther King stood for.
Photos: Don Harris, UCSC Photo Services
From left, former UCSC employee
Belita Magee is joined by Duane Garner, senior mail processor,
and Denise Gray, Dining Services food service manager,
at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium event.
Responding to a standing ovation as he stepped up to the podium
at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, the retired minister joked
to the audience, sit down, before I take up an offering.
Rev. Dr. Lowery, who with Martin Luther King helped found the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 and led the
organization for 20 years, said he considers Martin Luther King
Day more of a holy day than a holiday.
Describing King as a scholar, preacher, crusader, and
prophet, Lowery said King had a fire in his belly
that fire hoses couldnt wash out, a reference to
the old police tactic of using fire hoses against some civil
rights demonstrators in the South.
Lowery said he thinks King would join him in encouraging the
nation to go beyond honoring King the man, and instead honor
what he symbolized: a national commitment to freedom, truth,
We will not let them place King into a rotunda of irrelevancy,
Lowery said. This holy day provides an opportunity to
redefine this nation.
Entering the debate over values in the wake of the recent presidential
election, Lowery said the nation must reject twisted values
that place profits over people, or send smart bombs on
Its time for us to get our priorities in order,
Lowery said. How can we sponsor free and fair elections
in Iraq when we cant even have them in Ohio?
We need a revolution of values, he said, adding
that values have to embrace love. No one is excluded.
A retired Methodist minister, Lowery was wary of the shift
to government funding of faith-based initiatives. I think
that the church must stay independent and be the channel that
God speaks to us without interference by the government. He
who pays the fiddler is going to call the tune, one way or another.
I think theyre buying support.
Asked during a question-and-answer period about fear, Lowery
said he relied on his faith at such times. God gives you
the strength to go on despite your fears, Lowery said.
He noted that King often told him he wouldnt live to see
40, and King was assassinated at 39. But he never let
the fear that he wouldnt make 40 deter him.
Lowery used the areas redwood trees to reinforce a message
promoting interdependence, noting that the trees roots,
though not deep, overlap each other, adding to the trees
strength. When you mess with one redwood, you mess with
the whole doggone forest, Lowery said. There is
no path of escape for one of us that doesnt intersect
with all of us, he said.
Despite his misgivings about the Iraqi war, violence at home,
and the countrys direction, Lowery remains optimistic
Im satisfied that change is gonna come.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation is cosponsored
by UCSC, the City of Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Sentinel,
KUSP Radio, Inner Light Ministries, and the Santa Cruz Branch
of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,
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