Political leaders and citizens should honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by looking beyond political affiliations and forming deeper community ties, Governor Charlie Baker said Sunday at a service to honor the civil rights leader at Roxbury’s Twelfth Baptist Church.
Baker was the keynote speaker for the church’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. convocation, held on the second Sunday each January.
King regularly preached at the church while he was a doctoral student at Boston University and even met his wife there.
“As I think about the polarity that exists in our politics and culture today, I wonder what Dr. King would think,” Baker told the group of well over 100 attendees. “I think he’d be disappointed by our inability to embrace his vision of a beloved community.”
Baker, a Republican governor in a deep blue state, said that people must listen to each other with open minds in order to build a stronger community. Everybody is affected by issues such as unemployment, housing disparity, and addiction, regardless of race or political ideology, he said.
“I have never bought the idea that any one group has all the answers,” he said as the crowd gave a resounding “Amen.”
“If we strive to live by Dr. King’s ideals, we can keep his cause with us and carry on his work,” Baker said. “And we should, because he represented the very best within us all — the ties that bind us together, the shared sense of purpose, the divine notion that we can do better, and the relentless spirit that says we must.”
The service began with people standing in the pews and singing the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Their voices rang in unison with the choir as the steady rhythm of clapping filled the church.
That energy grew throughout the evening, with attendees raising their hands and yelling “Amen” when they agreed with a speaker’s point.
During a liturgical dance performed to “My Life, My Love, My All,” nearly half of the audience rose from their seats and swayed to the music as dancers passed through the center aisle.
In another address, City Councilor Ayanna Pressley underscored Baker’s words, asking people to work together, especially in times of global terrorism and increased tensions between African Americans and law enforcement around the nation.
“During this time of great uncertainty, unrest, and unease in our country, people are grappling for meaning, for anchoring,” Pressley said. She called on the attendees to use church as an anchor, just as King used his spirituality to lead the civil rights movement.
Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans discussed his department’s efforts to build strong ties in the black community.
“We work hard to make sure that inequality and other issues that Dr. King fought against don’t happen in Boston,” Evans said. “Number one, what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for is peace, and that’s what we work for every day.”
For many attendees, the convocation was in itself an act of community building.
For Bertha Herring-Daniels, of Burlington, the event was the perfect opportunity to be among people who were celebrating the legacy of the great civil rights leader. She said the service brings a sense of unity, which she hopes will continue beyond the church doors.
“If there’s one thing we can learn from Dr. King, it’s being in harmony with each other,” she said.