Community members gathered Sunday evening at the Mount Hermon Baptist Church to once again celebrate the life and legacy of civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King Jr.
The annual celebration was sponsored by the Mansfield Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (MIMA). The group is made up of several pastors of different churches in Mansfield who come together to help the community and its members.
“Let’s not forget that Dr. King wanted us to be here today and wanted us to be together,” said Ivy Amos as she welcomed everyone to the celebration. “He wanted us to continue looking at his vision and carrying on. Remember, tomorrow (January 20) is not a day off, it’s a day on.
As the room filled with applause, the Mansfield Community Choir, which is made up of various choir members from different churches, stood, singing in accapello. The song was mindful of an up tempo ‘old Negro spiritual.’
The Rev. James Cosby gave an animated presentation which represented a reflection of the past and the present plight of black people in America. He walked down the aisle of the church dressed as a slave but when he reached the top he said, “These hands used to pick cotton, but now they’re helping to pick presidents.”
As he shifted a Barak Obama Halloween mask to his face, the audience erupted with applause and ‘Amen’s’.
The Rev. Thomas Hunt, president of MIMA, gave two awards: the Humanitarian Award and the President’s Award. Deanna West-Torrence, executive director of the North End Community Improvement Collaborative, received the Humanitarian award “for her hard work in the city and her efforts and quest to make Mansfield a better place,” Hunt said. “She is doing a marvelous job.”
“I just want to say thank you to MIMA and to the community for being so open to the work I’ve been able to do,” West-Torrence said.
The President’s award was received by a surprised Cosby. “It’s been a pleasure to serve all of you over the years,” he said.
The evenings’ speaker was the Rev. Larry Rawls, pastor of Mount Sinai Baptist Church. He posed a question to the audience: If you could choose what time period you could life in, what would it be? After he recited some of the most memorable historical periods in history, he said he would like to live in the 21st century.
Rawls said he would like to live in the current time period because “things are coming to a head. We’re heading in a direction where we’re going to be forced to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with throughout history.”
He said he is worried about the youth being too involved in sports and video games instead of reading and writing. He said he is worried about men over age 35 ‘sagging’ their pants and not taking care of their children. “We’ve got to claim our families back.”
Rawls also encouraged support for black-owned businesses.
“We need to support our black businesses,” he said. “I’m not talking anti-white people. I love everybody. I’m talking it’s time to do more for ourselves and stop blaming white people.”
At the conclusion of his message, Rawls gave seven “ups” for living but in particularly to black men. “I’m not here to beat up on the ‘brothers,’ but if we would take a hard and earnest look at the condition of the black family today, I think there’s a fair summation that we as men in general need to man up.”
The first of the seven “ups” is to wake up. “We need to wake up and accept that fact that we have to work, adjust our attitude and stay positive,” he said. Next, is get up. “You need to get up and seriously look for a job.” Rawls then followed with shut up, grow up, stand up and cheer up to complete the list.
Martin Luther King Jr. was not only a civil rights pioneer but a great man, Rawls said.
“Dr King once said that, ‘I have decided to stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear.’”