The Rev. Marvin A. McMickle could have embraced President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign slogan except for one word.
“Again,” as in “Make America great again.”
“Isn’t it the obligation of every successive generation of Americans to do everything in our power to pass along to the next generation of Americans a nation that is better, broader, richer and deeper in love and inclusion than the generations that came before them?” McMickle asked a gathering of about 200 people Sunday at a Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Service at Community Christian Church, 4601 Main St.
“But that’s not what he said. ‘I want to make America great — again.’ And with that last word I have been left to wonder just what that ‘again’ involved. Because ‘again’ does not express a future hope. It expresses a nostalgia. ‘Again’ does not mean to chart some new path. ‘Again’ means to reclaim some earlier time.”
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McMickle then went on to recall what it was like to be black in America in the 1950s, an era looked upon fondly by many white people. Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black teen, was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after reportedly being too forward with a white woman. McMickle described his own experience as a 4-year-old in 1952 traveling with his family by train from Chicago to Washington, D.C. They had to leave their seats and go to a segregated car before crossing into Jim Crow Kentucky, he said.
“You could not get into segregation when you got there,” McMickle explained. “You had to come into Kentucky already seated in a segregated railroad car. All of the black passengers faced the humiliation in the middle of the night... Why was Jim Crow my earliest memory of America?”
McMickle, president of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, N.Y., was the featured speaker at the service, which kicked off 14 days of events commemorating King, the civil rights leader assassinated in 1968. Members of the Protestant, Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist and Baha’i faiths were represented. For a schedule of events go to http://www.sclckc.org/SiteResources/Data/Templates/t2.asp?docid=645&DocName=Welcome
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Jewish Community Relations Bureau/American Jewish Committee sponsored the event.
Carl Boyd and Mary Sanchez were jointly presented with the annual Evelyn Wasserstrom Award, in honor of the former director of the Kansas City branch of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. She organized the first King interfaith service in Kansas City. Wasserstrom died in 1988.
Boyd is an author and former host of “Generation Rap” on KPRS-FM. Sanchez is columnist for The Kansas City Star and a nationally syndicated journalist.