A Call to Action at King Day Service

Calvary Baptist Church's annual service honoring the slain civil rights leader offers a chance to reflect on and be inspired by his vision. Durell Godfrey

There was talk of how great and prescient the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was and concern about the ways America sometimes fails his vision a half-century after his death.

But an East Hampton High School senior, Naomi Blowe, a National Honor Society member and student leader who is also planning to visit Nepal later this year as part of a group that will build a school, uttered one of the many grace notes struck during Monday's celebration of Dr. King's birthday at Calvary Baptist Church in East Hampton by quoting "the great man" himself about what to do in difficult times.

" 'Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only love can do that,' " Ms. Blowe read. " 'Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.' "

Looking up from her notes, Ms. Blowe added, "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

Dr. King would have been 90 this year. Last April marked the 50th anniversary of his assassination in Memphis.

Calvary Baptist Church honors the slain civil rights icon each year with a service on his national holiday, the only holiday designated for someone who was not a United States president.
While those who spoke at Monday's service made scant mention of current President Donald Trump by name, there were frequent allusions to his controversial policies on immigration and race relations.

East Hampton Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. began his remarks with an apology to "the youngsters that are present" and expressed hope that greater unity will ultimately prevail in this country, saying, "We as the adult community are not doing too good a job with our national borders right now and all the turmoil that is taking place. It's stymied our federal government. And there are folks -- men and women and children -- that are just begging to get into Estados Unidos, the United States of America, because of the American dream."

The featured speaker, Arthurine Dunn, a church member and longtime teacher in the East Hampton School District who has three master's degrees and is working on her Ph.D. in education at St. John's University, stressed the power of knowledge, the need for perseverance, and the importance of making sure young adults know they can be all they want to be. Ms. Dunn added that the "blueprint" for how all of us can carry ourselves today can still be found in Dr. King's Six Principles of Nonviolence, which she relayed one by one.

"My hope is that these words will inspire and propel us to go out and make a difference," Ms. Dunn said. "Dr. King always said, 'The time is always right to do what's right.' . . . If you get knocked back down, get back up. Get back up."

The Most Rev. Donald Haverill, pastor at the Southampton Full Gospel Church, stressed taking individual responsibility for the state of America today.

"It's not the politicians, it's not the Democrats, it's not the Republicans, it's not Trump, all right? It's us. We've got to get back in the game," Mr. Haverill urged.

"Somebody once said, 'Politics is not a spectator sport.' And that's what we've done. I don't care what your color is, I don't care what language you speak, we've sat on the sidelines and watched things drift. . . . So this year, it's still new, let's make sure all of us don't look to point a finger or blame somebody else. Let's ask ourselves, 'What are we doing? What am I doing to help somebody else, or make this great country better?' "

"It seems at times like there's so much work to be done," County Legislator Bridget Fleming told the crowd, "but Dr. King himself said, 'It needs to be the darkest in order for us to see the stars.' So my prayer is that together we're going to recognize that's where we are. And that we're going to keep moving forward."

Henry Haney, a church deacon, seconded that notion just before the Calvary Baptist choir ended the service with the hymn "We Shall Overcome."

"Whatever boat you came over in, we're all in the same boat now, so let's all work together," Mr. Haney said.

" 'Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend,' " said Naomi Blowe, left, quoting Dr. King. "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear," she added. Durell Godfrey