Service kicks off week-long MLK celebration


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Among the packed house at the Bethel AME church Sunday night, dozens of people from many different religious groups met to celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

From St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Agudus Achim Synagogue, First Baptist Church, and others, the mixed crowd continued the message of community unity King lived his life by. The local churches rotate hosting this Interfaith Service held every year in celebration of King’s life and work.

“I’m calling all of you to commit yourselves to bring a real order of justice,” said Tom Baldridge, one of the speakers from St. Mary’s.

This event marked the beginning of the Celebration of Human Rights — a week of celebration centered on Martin Luther King Jr. Day today. The events will include the opening celebration at the IMU Main Lounge at 6 p.m. today. This event, like all others in the series, are free and open to the public.

At the Bethel AME Church on Sunday night, different members of the congregation read excerpts from their faith groups, all centered on unity, fairness, and respect. Along with the readings were songs from the Bethel children’s choir, thanking King for his contributions to civil rights.

“He has brought people together in peaceful ways, yet he withstood violence against himself,” said Christine Rumsey, a church member.

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The keynote speaker, Angelina Jordan, urged everyone to support children in the community to realize their strength and potential. Jordan, who is the Program Coordinator for Children of Promise, explained that investing in kids today will prevent future problems. Children of Promise is a mentoring program for youth from families involved in the correctional system that Jordan began in 2008.

“Everybody can be a mentor,” said Jordan, who went on to read some of the kids’ feedback about working with mentors.

All offerings at the service will benefit the Ecumenical Minority Scholarship fund. Established by a group of local churches as a means to fight racism and poverty, the fund assists University of Iowa students from under-represented minorities. In addition to the scholarship fund, the service also collected food donations.

Outside the church, there was a basket collecting canned foods and other non-perishables to give to the Food Bank at the Johnson County Crisis Center and the Coralville Ecumenical Food Bank.

Other events during the week include a screening and discussion of the film The Tuskegee Airmen, includes interviews from the original airmen. The men became the first black people to enlist as military airmen.

The week’s events, especially Sunday night’s church service, are something Meg Kiek said she looks forward to every year.

“We come together to talk about things we can do, how we can unite, how we can work together to make a better Earth,” she said.

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