The Rev. Martin Luther King’s dream of equality and justice was for all Americans, the nephew of the slain civil rights leader told about 1,000 people Monday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
Businessman Isaac Farris of Atlanta — a son of King’s sister, Christine King Farris — was the keynote speaker at the Arkansas Martin Luther King Jr. Commission’s MLK Holiday Celebration, themed “A Day of Service: A Day On, Not a Day Off.”
“My uncle’s dream was not a black dream,” said Farris, a past president of the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “He was not a black leader. He was an American leader who dreamed the American dream.”
Farris said King considered it a duty to help others. If King could address the nation now, he would tell Americans not to spend his holiday simply discussing what he achieved in his non-violent approach to civil rights, but rather to mark the day as an opportunity to serve humanity, Farris believes.
“It’s not a day to chill, go to the park or bring out the barbecue grill,” Farris said. “It’s a day to reach out and benefit others.”
Those who answer the call of service have the ability to make each day a great experience, Farris said.
Farris related some political opinions as well, shaking a finger at Republicans in their effort to require photo identification for voters. He said the movement is an attempt “to call back the (federal) voting rights act.”
Farris said that within 25 years, blacks and Latinos will be the majority races within the U.S. and whites should want to protect themselves by seeking to maintain laws that protect minority interests.
Farris reasoned that the time has arrived for Americans to break a habit of voting for candidates who look like them and start supporting those who share their values.
“It’s time to vote for people who think like you,” he said.
Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, who is being challenged by Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, was extolled by Farris for his willingness “to do the right thing for all by seeking to compromise on national issues.”
Too many Washington leaders have a “my way or the highway” attitude, Farris said.
Farris acknowledged Cotton, Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross before criticizing Republican gubernatorial hopeful Asa Hutchinson, who was not present. Farris said Hutchinson can’t be trusted if he didn’t wish to associate with the King family or a King holiday-related event.
Farris said Americans need to favor candidates who are mindful of “the poor and disadvantaged.”
Beebe also spoke, noting the importance of the annual King holiday gatherings as a measure of civil rights gains and to keep young people aware of “the story of the struggle.”