James Lindsey said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech has often caused him to wonder how many of the slain civil right leader’s dreams actually came true.
Lindsey, a deacon at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Canonsburg, said white children refused to dance with black children during games at school, he wasn’t permitted to patronize a Canonsburg hot dog stand while growing up there and blacks were not allowed in the local swimming pool “as if our black was going to rub off” on white people.
Without the work and sacrifices of King, he said, black people would not be where they are today.
“You can be a black person, and you can be whatever you want to be,” Lindsey said at a birthday celebration for King Sunday at St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington. “In fact, you can become president.”
More than 150 people crowded the sanctuary at the church at 16 Ridge Ave., where choirs performed and area church officials offered reflections about King as the nation is about to honor him through a federal holiday Jan. 21.
Phyllis Waller of Washington, first vice president of the Washington NAACP branch, said King was stabbed once and jailed multiple times during his crusade for equal rights before he was assassinated in 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., at age 39.
King’s life was “filled with many trials and tribulations,” said Treg Campbell, a teacher at Washington High School. He said King stressed that intelligence is not enough, that an educated person must also have strong morals and a good character.
Jeanie Waters of Washington, a trustee at St. Paul AME, said it’s important to keep celebrating King’s birthday to make sure the struggles for equal rights are not forgotten.
“There is still a long way to go,” Waters said. “Prejudice still exists.”