ELYRIA — The Rev. Joel King Jr. said if his cousin was alive today, he’d be crying.
At Lorain County Urban League’s Unity Day celebration Sunday afternoon, King, whose father was the brother of Martin Luther King Sr., said it’s something he finds himself doing in today’s world.
The Rev Joel L. King Jr., center, speaks to a group gathered at Unity Day on Sunday at Lorain County Community College, along with Pastor Troy Thompson, left, and Frank Whitfield, President/CEO of the Lorain County Urban League.
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“We’ve come so far, but we’ve got so far to go,” he said. “God is trying to help make this a greater nation and when we watch 45 (President Donald Trump) say he’s going to build a wall, God says, ‘Are you?’ Instead of building a wall, you should build a community.”
King said if his cousin, Martin Luther King Jr., had not been assassinated in 1968 he would be very vocal about Trump’s policies and would be present in areas of the country where racial conflicts are prevalent.
“But the younger generation is rising up and trying to change things themselves,” the second vice president of the Columbus NAACP said. “If America wants to be great, then we have to be a better community.”
Another part of the celebration was a presentation from Will Ford, an African-American man from Louisiana, and Matt Lockett, a white man from Kentucky, who through several twists and turns discovered in antebellum Virginia that Lockett’s family owned Ford’s.
“It stung to find out that my connection to the story was that of the slave owner,” Lockett said. “That was painful to find that out. But I took that back even farther and dug a little deeper and found that a generation before that there was an abolitionist pastor in the family as well.”
Ford said Americans are at a crossroads similar to that of the pre-Civil War Lockett family — what storyline do we want to be a part of?
“Healing or hurting? Blessing or cursing?” he said. “What storyline do we want to be a part of? It’s time for us to surrender our souvenirs like the Confederate flag and the monuments.”
Lorain County Urban League President Frank Whitfield said most people recognize that there’s a reason to come together for unity because of the racial tensions in places like Charlottesville, Va., where a woman was killed during violent white supremacist protests, and Ferguson, Mo., where Michael Brown, a black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer, but also because of racism that people come across locally.
“We hope today will inspire and also equip to combat the hatred that we see from around the country,” he said. “We should challenge the minds that promote discrimination and promoting hatred.”