Members of the Stuttgart military community honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with an observance held Jan. 16 in the Patch Theater.
The event was meant to inform, educate and enlighten those in attendance on the struggles, successes and contributions of the historical civil rights leader.
The celebration began with Deborah Taylor singing the national anthem, followed by Sgt. Eric Wiley, assigned to the Headquarters Support Company, 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), who read King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.
Guest speaker for the observance was Juandalynn R. Abernathy, daughter of Dr. Ralph D. Abernathy, co-founder of the civil rights movement and a close friend and associate of King’s.
Abernathy, a professional soprano and concert singer, lives in Balingen, 45 minutes from Stuttgart.
“My father and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., of whom I called Uncle Martin, were best friends,” she said. When they meet, the men found they had a great deal in common, Abernathy explained. They pastored sister churches, had mutual friends in Atlanta; were close in age (King, 26; Abernathy, 29), were married, and each had a young daughter.
“From the beginning to the end, they were together, and we were together as families: the Kings and the Abernathys,” Abernathy said.
She recalled the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott that her father and King organized in response to the arrest of Rosa Parks, after Parks refused to give up her bus seat so that a white man could sit.
“Leaders organized and created the Montgomery Improvement Association, elected Uncle Martin as the president, and my father, Dr. Ralph Abernathy, as treasurer, and the rest is history.
“The black people in that community sacrificed for 381 days by collectively carpooling and walking, to reach the goal. They bankrupt the transit system in Montgomery, changed federal laws and changed the world,” Abernathy said.
The singer concluded the observance by singing “Amazing Grace.”