“When King marched, he had white people, all people,” he said. “It is not about color. It is about doing the right thing.” – Dana Hawkins

As we approach the golden anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s martyring his words of loving wisdom have lost none of their relevance and timeless value despite this being a much-changed society. Like the Holy Scriptures, his teachings will never become obsolete. At a recent MLK breakfast a multi-ethnic array of East Texans spoke of their experiences growing up in this beautiful region, and how King’s influence has enriched and improved their lives. His influence may have defused potentially explosive situations.

Bishop Robert Evans told of how police once accused him and some friends of stealing the car they were driving.

“We have been called all kinds of names like the N word, black American and African-American in order to define us, but we remain a subculture in a dominant culture,” he said.

He told the audience of how any of them can go to visit Africa and be welcomed, but they cannot load up and move there because they are not Africans. He also commented on how the history of the black race in America has not been passed down correctly. As a result; they have grown up with an attitude of entitlement.

“No one owes you anything,” he said. “I respect everyone because they are created by God. I am not a white man, I am not a black man, I am not a red man. I am a man.”

Another speaker was City Councilwoman for District 3 Kasha Williams. After thanking the crowd for coming, she expressed her delight at being there herself…every year.

“Our stories are important. Your work makes Longview a better community,” she said. “We must persevere, continue to talk about the things that concern us.”

Passion gripped Dana Hawkins as he spoke of Pine Tree.

“Come and see what is going on in Pine Tree,” he said.

He shared his memories of growing up there, of how his family went on vacation to return and find their home burned to the ground. His story of how people of all persuasions in Pine Tree bought his family the materials they needed touched his listeners. His is a remarkable chronicle, but just one among many.

“It is not about us. It is about God,” he said. “He needs us to go out and work for him.”

He spoke of how King would have said, “I am not here. You have to continue so we can all see ourselves as a people.”

He also pleaded with all his listeners to forgive wrongs of the past.

“This is a new era,” he said. “Do not let anyone dictate to you how to feel about our brother or sister.”

He encouraged the adults in the audience to teach their children to respect all others, to not bully or call others offensive names, because someday they will need others of all callings.

“When King marched, he had white people, all people,” he said. “It is not about color. It is about doing the right thing.”

Tony Hawkins spoke of white people who suffered because they helped black people during the early days of civil rights. Hawkins and Micky Mapes, a Caucasian with whom he played football in Pine Tree have joined forces in the quest for racial harmony. Their inspiration was Emmanuel Chime who asked what Mapes was doing for the Martin Luther King holiday. This prompted Mapes to pray, ask God for guidance and wisdom; and read King’s famous I Have a Dream speech.

“I have a dream that some day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”

These ringing words struck home with Mapes. He contacted his school friend and teammate and commenced laying plans for the Brotherhood Table.

Then, there was the annual King March. Sprouting umbrellas in defiance of the rain the procession made its trek with Renee Robertson and Suma Jayakar bearing a BE THE BRIDGE banner. This banner is to encourage the church to react positively, decisively and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit versus the specter of racial divisions and to assist bridge builders to foster and develop vision, skills and heart for racial unity. Another objective is collaborating with existing organizations, motivating them to advance diversity, racial justice and reconciliation.