With a mostly empty Ebenezer Baptist Church as its backdrop, the nation celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday.
The televised remembrance came as the country continues to deal with a deadly pandemic that has cost nearly 400,000 lives and political division that has prompted a near lockdown of Washington D.C. ahead of Wednesday’s presidential inauguration.
President-elect Joe Biden addressed the audience in a recorded message, invoking the spirit of Dr. King.
“It lives deep within the soul of our nation. It’s in our hearts, it’s in our bones, reminding us of what we must do,” said Biden. “We must not rest. It’s our responsibility to come together, all Americans, to bring peace to that restless spirit.”
Black voters helped lift Biden to victory in November, both in Georgia and across several swing states.
Dr. King’s home state also elected its first Black Senator this month, the Rev. Raphael Warnock.
“We need praying feet that will stand up to bigotry and racism and xenophobia in this divided moment in our country,” said Senator-elect Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist.
“A deadly pandemic has reminded us that we are tied together, as Dr. King said, in the single garment of destiny,” said Warnock. “Because we’re dealing with a deadly, airborne disease, my neighbor coughs, and I am imperiled by the cough of my neighbor. That doesn’t make my neighbor my enemy; that means our destiny is tied together.”
Rev. T.D. Jakes, the pastor of The Potter House in Dallas, was the keynote speaker for Monday’s service, which was also filled with musical tributes, mainly performed virtually.
Bernice King, the daughter of the civil rights icon and Coretta Scott King, remarked on how much the world has changed from her father’s holiday one year ago – from the coronavirus pandemic to the social justice demonstrations from last summer, to the contentious presidential election.
“We have an opportunity to turn the tide of these current inhumane and unjust world conditions and create this more just, humane, equitable, peaceful and sustainable for all of God’s children,” said King.
At Monday’s service, King announced a new campaign from the King Center called “Be Loved.”
“My father reminded us that power without love is reckless and abusive; that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power, he said, at its best, is love implementing the demands of justice,” said King.