Overflow Crowd Pays Tribute To Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Rev. Kamal Hassan tells the Walnut Creek audience that King was an "inconvenient hero"
The keynote speaker, The Rev. Kamal Hassan of Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church in Richmond, told the overflow crowd that the slain civil rights letter was "an inconvenient hero."
Hassan explained that most people today know King from the black-and-white newsreel of his "I Have A Dream" speech from the Washington Mall in 1963.
Hassan said people today hear a few snippets of that speech but are unaware of all that King talked about that day.
Among other things, King spoke about the "bad check" the nation was giving African-Americans at that time and the need to overcome the oppression in this country.
He said you don't see those quotes in advertising campaigns for Martin Luther King Jr. Day from companies like McDonald's and Walmart.
"Ain't none of that in there," Hassan said.
The Richmond reverend noted a Gallup poll in 1963 showed King's favorable rating at 33 percent. Today, it is at 97 percent.
At that time, Hassan said, King was speaking out for the poor, the underprivileged and those whose rights were being restricted.
He compared King's nonviolent campaign to that of Jesus' crusade during the oppressive times of the Roman Empire.
Hassan said in the years after that 1963 speech King s poke out against the Vietnam War and started the Poor People's Campaign. Both of those stances cost him popularity in certain parts of the country.
"It wasn't about popularity, though. It was about truth," said Hassan.
King was in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting garbage workers when he was assassinated in April 1968.
Hassan said people can honor King's legacy by working for those who are oppressed, even if that work isn't pleasant or popular.
"We need to put ourselves at risk by being with those at risk," said Hassan.
The crowd at St. Paul's also heard from state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier as well as Margli Auclair of the Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center and Natalie Russell of the Social Justice Alliance.
"Thank you all for coming," Russell told the crowd. "I hope you go from here with big ideas."
The audience was also entertained by the gospel choir from St. Benedict's Catholic Church in Oakland. At one point, the choir had the entire audience standing and clapping in rhythm.