King’s words recounted
“Our children are dying!”
A cold April wind whipped through Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park in South Bethlehem Wednesday as, in impassioned oratory, Rayah Levy exhorted a small crowd in the sun-dappled park on Carlton Avenue.
“Our children are dying every day not through natural causes, but through an infectious disease called miseducation. They are dying because society has polluted their minds with hatred and bigotry,” Levy declared.
She recalled King’s analogy of a blueprint that serves as a pattern for a solid building, but that “we have become complacent.”
Levy said that blueprint is being replaced by what they see and hear on the internet. “As adults, we have created them to mirror what we have taught. Society has given our young children a blueprint when they surf the internet, when they watch television and when they open a magazine.”
“My blueprint is to save our children through education,” said Levy.
Levy was among several speakers, including civic leader and president of the Bethlehem Chapter of the NAACP Esther Lee, who came to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination on April 4, 1968.
The audience for the most part had assembled on Payrow Plaza between Bethlehem’s City Hall and the public library in the late afternoon, and by 5:45 p.m. had marched down New Street and across the Philip J. Fahy Memorial Bridge to the little park tucked beside the stone 1906-era Holy Ghost Church.
At 6:01 p.m. the bells of the twin-towered belfry of the Holy Ghost Church pealed. It was at that time an assassin’s bullet struck King down as he left his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.
“Our children are dying!” cried Levy. “Look what happened in Sandy Hook…” she said referencing the 2012 massacre of young children in Connecticut.
“Some of us believe that this cannot happen in our community, but we are wrong,” said Levy. “It is creeping up at our front doors.
“Our destinies are tied together,” Levy said, alluding to a 1967 speech by King in which he called for unity among Americans regardless of their ethnicity.
“Where do we go from here?” asked Levy. “We need to build a United States of Humanity. We need to start as soon as the veil of innocence is no longer appearing in our young children’s eyes. She warned against becoming “a race of infested minds.”
Quoting King, Levy reminded, “Racism can well be that corrosive evil that will bring down the curtain on western civilization. If America does not respond creatively to the challenge to banish racism, some future historian will have to say that a great civilization died because it lacked the soul and commitment to make justice a reality for all men.”
Winston Alozie, the program director at Boys and Girls Club of Bethlehem, opened the ceremonies with an emotional a capella rendition of the spiritual hymn, “Oh Freedom,” which includes the stanza, “Before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave.”
Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez spoke briefly, recalling the day that he heard that King had been assassinated.
State Representative Steve Samuelson spoke, calling Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King one of the outstanding leaders of the 20th century.
Bethlehem City Councilwoman Olga Negron told the gathering. “We are all one family; we have to work in the Lehigh Valley as one family.
“Speak up, stand up, get in the way. You will get in trouble and you’ll lead the way,” said Negron.
Esther Lee, one of Bethlehem’s leading moral figures, said, “We’ve been pitted one against the other.” She reminded her audience that she had led a choir in 1971 at the dedication of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park where they were now celebrating.
Bag pipers from the Liberty HS Grenadier Band performed “Amazing Grace.”