Although more than 50 years have passed since Martin Luther King Jr. was killed outside his motel in Memphis, Fannie Dean still wants people to remember what he stood for and take lessons from how he lived his life.
The pastor at Mission Ministry Outreach said this year’s theme of the annual service to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day is taking a stand.
“It’s urgent,” Dean said, “a call that we have to know what we want to do for others.”
She emphasized the civil rights leader’s consistency and persistence in doing what he knew was right and said she urges others to follow his example. Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at the House of Prayer on Erin Park Road, Dean will lead this year’s program to honor King. A unity choir, which includes members from Mission Ministry and House of Prayer, will perform. There will be dancers and a guest speaker, retired Air Force Acquisitions Officer Rehema Stuckey.
Dean said she invited Stuckey, an Oak Harbor High School graduate, because she likes to elevate locals who’ve found success.
“She deserves to speak,” Dean said. “She has had encounters with all kinds of races and people.”
Encounters and communication with people who have differing experiences will be a key component of Dean’s message. Taking time to understand struggles felt by others will solve a lot of the world’s problems, Dean said.
Unity is a goal for many involved in the event. Nicole Rice, a singer in the church choir, said remembering King’s legacy is about seeing how far we’ve come but also seeing there’s room for improvement.
Rice said in an increasingly polarized atmosphere, his message remains relevant.
“We can all be united,” Rice said. “We don’t have to be fighting.”
Jahleel Vester, a saxophone player with the choir, agreed. He said the ideas presented by the famed civil rights activist were about more than desegregation. He believes King wouldn’t approve of the way people with opposing political views interact today.
“If Martin Luther King Jr. were here today he’d be saying ‘I respect your opinion,’” Vester said.
Lillian Hibbert-Vester, 14, said she was encouraged to join the unity choir by her father but that she’s also motivated by her admiration of King. The North Whidbey Middle School student said his legacy has made a big impact on her life.
“I would like to use my voice to let everyone know Dr. King has inspired me,” Hibbert-Vester said.
Oak Harbor’s celebration of King began in the late 80s.
Dean said she gets excited for it every year because his life and sacrifice are worth remembering.
The months of practice and organization are worth it in the end.
The event is open to the community. Dean said she’s invited Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns, adding he didn’t make it last year, but she has hope that he will this time.
Although the service celebrates the past, the message each year is one of hope and looking forward, Dean said.
“We want to keep the dream alive,” she said.