Whidbey event honors Martin Luther King Jr.

The theme this year is ‘America’s Original Sin.’

The 18th annual Whidbey Martin Luther King community event is returning to St. Augustine’s in-the-Woods Episcopal Church in Freeland as an in-person, live event at 1 p.m. on Jan. 16. For the past two years, the event was a YouTube video production because of the pandemic.

As in past years, a narrative read from the pulpit will interact with readings from the pews. The “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” event format links events from the Black Freedom Movement (aka the civil rights movement) with current racial justice issues. This year the readings will focus on “America’s Original Sin: The Consequences of Slavery, White Racism and the Struggle for Racial Justice.”

While the African American experience and Black Freedom Movement will still be referenced, the readings will also focus on the economic, racial and social impact or cost of slavery. The gathering will continue, as it has in recent years, to call for a racial reckoning or understanding of white racism among Whidbey residents.

“This is not an African American problem. It is a problem that calls for a racial reckoning by European Americans,” organizers wrote in a press release.

Martin Luther King articulated this issue in the 1963 letter from the Birmingham jail.

”I … confess that over the past few years,” King wrote, “I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is … the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.’ … Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”

As always, music will be a key component of the service, which seeks to draw strength and inspiration from gospel music of the Southern African American churches. Trinity Lutheran Music Minister Karl Olsen will again lead the singing.

The church is located at 5217 S. Honeymoon Bay Road.

The “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” community event is planned, organized and implemented by the St. Augustine’s Episcopal Peace Fellowship. Cookies, beverages and socializing is available from 12:15-12:50 p.m.