Different faiths come together in Pomona King celebration
POMONA >> Children, adults and senior citizens of different faiths, cultures, ethnic backgrounds, political persuasions, professional pursuits and personal experiences linked hands and hearts before they sang “We Shall Overcome” at the Pomona-Inland Valley Martin Luther King Jr. Project holiday celebration Sunday night in Pomona.
The event, hosted for the 20th time by the Rev. Beth Bingham and Pilgrim Congregational Church, is the region’s oldest observance of the holiday for and legacy of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The 350 participants - who reside in communities from Los Angeles to Hesperia - involved Jews, Muslims and Christians who unanimously agreed King’s dream had not been completely fulfilled and committed to achieving the dream through their activism, local and global peace efforts and education.
Admiring the camaraderie among drastically different people, University of La Verne President Devorah Lieberman smiled and noted “bringing together people from different religions, cultures, gender and ethnicities is the only way to move this world forward, to truly look at people on the basis of their character instead of their color and to better guarantee peace in our world.”
The program theme celebrated “Freedom, Humanity and Unity.” Co-presented by the project, National Council of Negro Women’s Pomona Valley Section and Pilgrim Congregational, it additionally showcased the exemplary service of MLK Jr. Youth Social Justice Award honorees Keyera Collins, Brooke Porter, Rachel Barnes, Brenae Jones, Susan Lucas and Malcolm Smith and the talents of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church’s Kingdom Bound singers Mykel Abrams of Hesperia, Jheremy Gilmore of Victorville, Sasha Jones of Moreno Valley and Brandon and Brandi Brown of Pomona.
Pianist Bryan Brown accompanied Kingdom Bound and 16-year-old Sasha’s leading of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the black national anthem.
The Licata Brothers of Arcadia - guitarists/singers Jimmy, 17, and Tony, 14 - received a standing ovation for their performances of Youngblood’s “Everybody Get Together,” the Negro spiritual “Raise Me Up” featuring Tony’s surprisingly passionate baritone/bass range and their harmonic balance on Crosby, Still and Nash’s “Teach Your Children.” The siblings stepped in to musically fill time during the offering and closing rendition of “We Shall Overcome” led by the Rev. Gary Lett of Pomona.
Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer of Pomona stirred the audience with his childhood recollections as an 11-year-old boy linking arms with Coretta Scott King and John Lewis for the Selma -to-Montgomery walk. A cousin in Jackson, Mississippi saw young Zev’s photo on the front page of his newspaper and, enraged, promptly called Zev’s mother to question “Do you know what you son has done now?”
“My mother was not surprised,” the youthful activist who would become a rabbi and continue to rabble-rouse for peace and equal treatment of all people.
Feyer reminded the audience that civil and human rights activism didn’t just involve African-Americans. He cited the ultimate sacrifice of William Moore, a white postal worker who protested racial injustices in walks to the Maryland governor’s mansion and, on the day King was released from the Birmingham jail, to the White House. Moore was murdered on his third walk from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi. Although the assassin was identified he was never charged.
In her introduction of keynote speaker Rosemary Radford Ruether, project vice president Sherie Rodgers asked people to envision the spirit, faith, courage, perseverance and radicalism of Mary McLeod Bethune, Helen Keller, Ida B. Wells, King and other historical figures who raised their voices and non-violently battled for the rights of disenfranchised and oppressed people.
Iman Jihad Turk, Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School president, cleared up misconceptions spread by fanatical faith. He works with Christians and Jews to eliminate religious divides created by extremists. He cited the three tenets - economic justice, equal treatment of women and racial equality - preached by Mohammed in his final sermon.
Rep. Norma Torres, D- Ontario, voiced pride that the oldest King program is held in her hometown and is inclusive. She said. “We all must be more accepting of each other and care for each other for who we are, not what we are.”