Martin Luther King Jr. Day | Sojourners

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Atlanta was all decked out. It was a great and grand birthday party, and the celebration lasted for more than a week. The first national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. became an event I would not soon forget.

My friend Tim McDonald, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, invited me to come to Atlanta for the party. My excitement began to rise as we drove along famous Auburn Avenue, lined with festive flags.

Our first stop was the SCLC headquarters and the little office that was Martin's during the heat of the civil rights struggle. The offices are still small, and the struggle continues. The week I was there the Winn Dixie supermarket chain relented, under growing pressure from an SCLC-led economic boycott, and agreed to remove all South African products from its stores in the 11 southern states where it operates. Joseph Lowery, president of the SCLC, made the glad announcement at a press conference and then led all those assembled in a chorus of "Happy Birthday, dear Martin. Happy Birthday to you!" The victory celebration that night seemed a most fitting way to remember SCLC's founder.

A few blocks down Auburn, at a place called "Beautiful," you can get some of the best food in Atlanta--or anywhere else for that matter. The chicken, ribs, and vegetables are all wonderful, and don't miss the peach cobbler.

Just steps away stands historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where both Martin Luther King Jr. and his father held forth before the nation. I had been to Ebenezer only once before but feel that its pulpit and its people have nurtured me for years. Thursday night I was to preach at Ebenezer in the King Celebration Service of Rededication to Peace and Justice.

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