The Rev. Cameron Alexander, the longtime pastor of former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain, said that any black people in Atlanta who don’t register to vote “ought to be tarred and feathered.”
Alexander, a follower of King and pastor of Antioch Baptist Church North, stopped short of urging the largely Black crowd at Ebenezer Baptist Church to vote for Obama. Instead, Alexander, who grew up in the Jim Crow South, recalled the indignities of segregation and remembered King as a preacher, not a politician.
“There ought to be a hurting and an aching to the point that you do something, and that’s vote,” Alexander told the audience.
Gov. Nathan Deal urged fellow Georgians to be mindful of the challenges that remain more than 40 years after King’s death, including illiteracy, addiction, poverty and crime.
“Dr. King was not just a man of words. He was a man of action,” Deal said. “So today, when many of the overarching causes for which he worked have been achieved, the question that comes to our generation is, what now?”
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson took the occasion to endorse the Interior Department’s recent decision to change a quote on the Martin Luther King Jr. national monument in Washington after concerns were raised that the civil rights icon’s comments were taken out of context and depicted him as arrogant.
“He walked humbly with his God, and he urged others to do the same,” Isakson said of King. “Words matter. Dr. King mattered.”
The keynote speaker, the Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III, delivered a fiery sermon incorporating the holiday’s motto to ”remember, celebrate and act.”
“Racism is so sinister, subtle and subliminal. we still have a mission to fulfill,” said Haynes, the senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas. “Even though there are those who have done well, there are countless individuals being left behind, and we cannot forget them.”
Haynes said that with so many using King’s words but not following his message, the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner could be “a victim of identity theft.”
He reminded the audience that King was not only a dreamer, but one who fought for changes in public policy and sacrificed for the greater good.
“If we’re going to make a difference in this world, we need somebody to get agitated,” Haynes said. “You don’t get killed for dreaming.”