January 17, 2018

Arts Council, Multifaith Service Highlight Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebrations

By Donald Gilpin

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) celebrated the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday with a day of live music, interactive workshops, and discussions culminating in an evening multifaith service at First Baptist Church at Paul Robeson Place and John Street.

Speakers at a community breakfast at ACP included Princess Hoagland of Not in Our Town: Princeton, an interfaith, interracial group dedicated to racial justice; Monique Jones, parent education and community outreach coordinator for Princeton Public Schools; and James Fields, director of undergraduate ministry for the Christian Union at Princeton University.

After breakfast there were art and history activities for all ages, including an open archive from the Historical Society of Princeton and an afternoon performance by the First Baptist Church Choir. A screening of Teach Us All, a documentary about educational inequality examining the legacy of the 1957 Little Rock school crisis, concluded the afternoon events.

“On Martin Luther King Jr. Day we celebrate the values of equality, tolerance, and solidarity,” said ACP Executive Director Taneshia Nash Laird. “The Arts Council of Princeton is excited to serve the community by opening our doors to recognize a collective commitment to social change.”

Picking up on Laird’s commitment to “reflect on the legacy of the work of a great man,” the evening’s multifaith service, sponsored by Coalition for Peace Action and the Princeton Clergy Association, featured participation by leaders from a range of different faiths.

“We enjoyed participation from so many different houses of worship and faith backgrounds, as we united together to show the world that we stand together for love, justice, and peace,” said First Baptist Pastor the Rev. Carlton Branscomb.

“Beloved, no matter what your background or tradition, remember that love conquers all and unites us all. We do not have to accept a world filled with fear and division,” he continued.

The Rev. Bob Moore, who delivered the sermon, described himself as “standing in Dr. King’s holistic, prophetic tradition and speaking out on rejecting all forms of racism and bigotry, as well as militarism, and in support of the beloved community.”

In his sermon titled “Holistic, Prophetic Beloved Community,” Moore emphasized that King’s agenda included not just civil rights, but also world peace, trade union issues, and a campaign for poor people.

Moore also highlighted the current need for a prophetic ministry in light of the urgent crises of racism and militarism in our country. He described ongoing racism as “a deep-seated problem in our culture. We have a lot to do on that one.”

He also mentioned the threat of nuclear war, warning, “if we don’t change direction, we’re going to end up where we’re headed,” noting that “the Trump administration continues to reject all diplomacy.”

Moore’s sermon, interrupted a dozen times for applause and responded to by a standing ovation at its conclusion, repeatedly highlighted the empowering strength of diversity in the face of challenges. “The beloved community becomes a prophetic community,” he said. “We can all be part of the prophetic community, supporting empowerment and solidarity.”