MLK Day observed in Brownwood: 'Do what's right'
With a theme of "the time is always right to do what's right," Brownwood's observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day brought a large crowd and unifying messages at the annual observance's new venue Monday.
Revitalizing Our Community (ROC), which hosts the event each year, moved it out of the nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza to the spacious Cecil Holman Park basketball court, where a large number of chairs were spread out to allow adherence to COVID social distancing guidelines. Guests who did not sit in the chairs stood or sat along the court's perimeter fence.
The basketball park will be observance's location in future years because the observance had outgrown the MLK plaza, ROC founder Draco Miller said.
Howard Payne University president Dr. Cory Hines was the featured speaker, and he urged listeners to "be a person of change."
Before Hines spoke, guests heard rom speakers including emcee Jody Miller, ROC secretary Sareta Spratt Delgado, state Rep. Glenn Rogers, District Judge Mike Smith and Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes.
“Dr. King was an ordinary man who dedicated his life for purpose and for belief for change against extraordinary opposition," Delgado said. "My nephew made a thought-provoking statement recently and it was: ‘these children are watching. They can’t think for themselves. They do what they see us do.’ So I ask you to ponder: who’s watching you?"
Rogers pondered what King would say in today's world and repeated two of King's quotations: "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend" and "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
Smith said, "it's time for focus to be on things more than ourselves, on other people and their lives, how they’re doing, what they’re interests are, what they’re able to accomplish and investing and pouring into other people’s destiny. I think Dr. King was as big an example of that as you can have."
Haynes, addressing the division in the world, said, "we seem to have become more divided than ever. What our country needs right now is a people that are dedicated to unity. Unity does not occur because someone has an idea that is so flawless that no one may oppose it. Rather unity occurs when a people decide that unity is more important than our own selfish desires and choose to seek it.
"Whether we’re talking about a family, a team, a church, a community or even a nation, unity requires self-sacrifice.”
Haynes said he believes Brownwood is "a bright shining star ... we do it pretty well. In a year full of controversy, in a year full of rioting, and in a year full of people acting out, what did we see in Brownwood, Texas? We saw peace. We saw a people that were committed to putting the needs of the community before their own selfish desires and we would do well as a country to model that.”
Haynes referenced a Wall Street Journal article about people longing for "the good old days" — which people have done "since at least the invention of writing in ancient Mesopotamia 5,000 years ago," Haynes said.
"Archeologists have discovered tablets which complained family life isn’t what it used to be. We’ve got to stop looking to restore the past and start trying to build our future. … everything can be better if we choose to live in harmony with one another, if we choose to put others before ourselves and if we choose to see the blessings which God has given us and be thankful for them."
After Haynes spoke, the HPU president began his comments. King said "the time is always right to do what is right" while speaking at Oberlin College in Ohio in 1964, Hines said.
The year 1964 was far from a peaceful year in America, Hines said, noting the occurrence of race riots throughout the country. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law in July of that year — one of the crowning achievements during the civil rights movement and one ended the Jim Crow laws that had legalized segregation since the end of slavery and the Civil War, Hines said.
"Even though it did not solve the country's racial issues or end prejudice, it was an important first step in creating a more fair and equal society," Hines said.
Hines said Americans need to be grateful for King's words and call to action, but "we need to actively push forward and do our part" in helping shape the country."
Hines asked what it means to do what is right. It involves more listening than talking and being more active than passive, Hines said.
He challenged listeners to "actively seek out people who may not look like you, think like you or believe like you, and have a conversation ... at the end of the day, are we really that different?"
Hines noted the Bible commands people to "treat your brother or your sister the way you want to be treated. If we treat others the way we want to be treated, then it will be easy to do, in the words of Dr. King, what is right," Hines said.
If people follow Christ's word, they will love others, treat people with respect even in disagreement, be patient and listen, and restore and build up rather than divide and bring disharmony, Hines said.
"Make a commitment today to be a person of change," Hines said. "Be that person whose life can be described as someone who found a way, when they were here on this earth, to do what is right."