Workman Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church pastor Rev. Kevin Johnson during a celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. on Saturday, Jan. 16. Photo by Christopher Rabago.
Workman Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church pastor Rev. Kevin Johnson during a celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. on Saturday, Jan. 16. Photo by Christopher Rabago.
Advertisement

TORRINGTON — For the past 11 years, every January the Workman Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church has held a celebration of the life and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr.
Despite the pandemic, his life was once again celebrated at the church on Saturday, Jan. 16.
King, a Baptist minister and activist, was a leader in the civil rights movement until he was killed in an assassination in 1968.
He was only 39 years old when he died, yet his teachings and the memories of his accomplishments are still relevant today, 53 years after his death.
Back in 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to create a federal holiday to honor King, which was observed for the first time in 1986.
It was officially observed in all 50 states starting in 2000 and is held each year on the third Monday of January, right near the date of King’s birthday on January 15.
Due to the pandemic, precautions were taken at the church during the Jan. 16 event, with only 15 people allowed into the building.
All attendees were socially distanced and wore masks at the event.
This year’s event started with the playing of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” as performed by Seal.
The song was written by Cooke in 1964, but as church pastor Rev. Kevin Johnson said, the song is still relevant and appropriate for today’s world.
“A change is going to come, but we need to keep chipping away,” Rev. Johnson said. “We need to continue to push the dream forward, just as Martin Luther King Jr. did.”
“Dr. King once said our lives begin to end the day when we become or we became silent about things that matter,” speaker Rev. Michael Jenkins, Pastor of United Methodist Churches in Ansonia and Watertown, said to the attendees. “One of my sisters from the United Methodist Church shared with me a few words about her journey with Dr. King. She said that we can change things if we have love. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. loved folks right where they are. Love takes a lot of effort and work, but that is the way God wants us to go, and that was the life that was led by Martin Luther King. God, love, and nonviolence, Dr. Martin Luther King knew about the importance of that.”
Rev. Jenkins said that King took the time to deal with the major concerns and issues that people were going through, including caring for the less fortunate.
“The issues that King dealt with are still issues that are going on today,” Rev. Jenkins said. “You are not being part of the solution when you are not speaking up on the contemporary issues we have been dealing with. Dr. King stood up for things, just like Jesus did here on earth. Marginalized people were the people that Jesus hung out with, just like Dr. King, and so should you and I.”
Rev. Jenkins said that King stood up for marginalized people and did what he could to make the world a better place.
“It all goes back to the word love,” Rev. Jenkins said. “Love takes time and it is a slow process. We still need love in this country. Some people don’t understand the words that Martin Luther King Jr. preached. We need to understand that he always preached nonviolence.”
In the same spirit of standing up for social issues and helping others, the Brotherhood of Diversity announced that they are organizing a March Against Poverty on May 8.
Karen Thomas, Executive Director of Friendly Hands Food Bank, spoke about food insecurity and the nonprofit organization.
“Food is a basic human right,” Thomas said. “No one should feel inferior if they don’t have enough food.”
The event ended with the song “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand,” by Diana Ross.
“Let’s all chip away at all of those things that we can do to make the world a better place,” Rev. Johnson said right before he played the song. “Knowing that right now we can’t touch, but we can still spread some love.”
For more details about the March Against Poverty when it becomes available, go to the Brotherhood of Diversity’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Brotherhood-of-diversity-1621671881454547

Photos by Christopher Rabago

Torrington Brotherhood of Diversity President Wilbert Boles.
Attendees at the Jan. 16 event. Due to the pandemic, only 15 people were allowed in the church and social distancing was implemented.
Brotherhood of Diversity member Thomas Gallagher.
Speaker Rev. Michael Jenkins, Pastor of United Methodist Churches in Ansonia and Watertown.
Advertisement