LIMA — With upwards of 500 community members who braved sub-zero temperatures in attendance, the guest speaker at Monday morning’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast at Veterans Memorial Civic Center urged visitors of all races to “keep moving forward” to achieve racial harmony and a more unified nation.
“Only then can we truly say, ‘Free at last, free at last; thank God almighty we are free at last,’” said Charlene Free, echoing the famous words of the civil rights icon who was at the center of Monday’s nationwide celebration.
Free is president of Designed Destiny Ministries of Columbus and the director of women’s ministries at Gospel Lighthouse Church in that city. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the sponsor for the 24th annual MLK breakfast.
An ordained minister for more than a quarter of a century, Free during her breakfast address referred often to how King’s life and legacy was shaped by a much higher and much more powerful presence.
“Dr. King did not just fight for people of color; he knew God loved everybody,” said Free. “Dr. King knew who he was. Jesus Christ knew who he was. Do you know who you are?” Free asked the assembled crowd.
“To keep moving forward, you’ve got to know who you are. Too many of us get complacent, but you’ve got to keep moving forward in your mind, no matter what you hear or see,” Free said.
“Keep seeing; that is part of the movement,” she continued. “It is so easy to become negative when negative things are going on all around you. It takes a disciplined mind to keep moving forward.”
Individuals who allow negative thoughts to take over their minds, Free said, are not living up to the legacy King established through his lifelong efforts as a leader of the civil rights movement.
“Martin Luther King was asked to walk someplace he had never been before. Where is God calling you to go where you’ve never been before?” Free asked. “Dr. King died with a purpose, but the work he did is still with us today.”
Near the end of her address, Free had harsh words for President Donald Trump. Without naming the president directly, she said the current occupant of the White House and other political leaders — those who would shut down the government, who talk of building walls to divide people rather than unite them, and who work to suppress the votes of minority constituents — should cause alarm and concern within the African American community.
“If he (Trump) can keep us fighting among ourselves, then he continues to win,” Free said. “It is important for us to be unified, but we have to be unified in Christ.
“Light always overcomes darkness. Light … and love. When the opposition comes, keep moving forward,” she concluded.
Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.