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Alpha Kappa Alpha hosts 2021 Unity Day program remotely

Monday’s Unity Day program hosted by the Lambda Zeta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority was different from its previous programs celebrating the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday. Rather than a breakfast program held in a local church, the 9 a.m. EST event was a virtual service with guests joining in via Facebook and YouTube. This year’s theme was “In These Troubled Times, We Pray for Healing as We Keep Moving Forward.”

Going to a virtual format was a precaution due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A host of ministers from the two-state area urged unity among all people and a strong need to follow God as the nation has many struggles ahead. Getting past the virus, dealing with racism and a need to have common respect for one’s fellow man were among the needs cited.

“What would Dr. King have said to those who stormed the Capitol and those who were there to protest peacefully?” asked program emcee Christy Brock-Johnson. “I think he may have said, ‘We may have come here on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.’ That was one of his favorite sayings. We should all be proud to take part in this program today.”

In recorded messages, local officials sent their greetings and their hopes for unity. Lanett Mayor Kyle McCoy read a proclamation recognizing the MLK holiday and commending Lambda Zeta Omega’s continuing efforts to celebrate the holiday with a positive and uplifting program.

“We call on all citizens on this day to pay tribute and have respect for what Dr. King stood for during his lifetime,” the proclamation noted.

Dr. W.T. Edmondson, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in West Point, expressed good wishes on behalf of the City of LaGrange, where he serves on the city council.

“If Dr. King were alive today, he would tell us that the road ahead would not be easy but that we have come too far to give up now,” Edmondson said. “We must continue to believe that good things will happen to those who love the Lord. Let’s be vigilant and safe as we travel on this road.”

West Point Mayor Steve Tramell said that continued growth, service and the sense of community were important for West Point.

“We are a small town that believes in inclusiveness and fairness to all,” he said.

Valley Council Member Henry Cooper thanked the local AKA chapter for continuing to have a Unity Day program on MLK Day.

“This is a special day,” he said. “It is up to us to keep the dream alive.”

The Rev. Kelsey Barnes, pastor of Goodsell United Methodist Church in Lanett, delivered the opening prayer. He quoted from Psalms 103 that the mercy of the Lord will be with those who fear him.

“I am humbled to share a message with you today,” he said.

The mood then got really lively as the Lewis family had some spirited versions of “Hold On, It Will be All Right” and “I Know I Have Been Changed.”

The Rev. Michael T. Winston of Sardis Baptist Church implored others to see love as something that’s not just packaged for one’s self but something that must be shown to others.

“Let’s thank God for carrying us this far,” he said. “Let’s pray for our community and our children. We place them in God’s hands. God is the one who lights the darkness, and we thank him for that.”

The Rev. Gary Dixon, pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church and moderator for the Bowen East District, said that America is dealing with troubled times right now.

“There are so many things we need to talk to God about,” he said. “We are dealing with things we have never experienced in our lives, but we must never forget that every good and perfect gift cometh from above. We are weak, but God is strong. We pray for him to continue holding us in the palm of his hand and to bring us through these troubled times.”

Dr. Calvin McTier, senior pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery, said that we must hold foremost in our thoughts the trials of those who have been dealing with COVID-19.

“God is in control,” he said. “We pray for those who are in hospitals, the elderly and those who are behind prison walls. Let us wear masks to protect those among us who are vulnerable, and let’s pray for leadership as our country goes through a transition of power. It’s our prayer that it is peaceful.”

“For nine long months, we have been leaning and trusting on the Lord,” said the Rev. Dr. Lamar Johnson, pastor of Mount Hermon Baptist Church in Lanett. “We lay all our concerns before God. Bless our leaders, our community, our state and our nation.”

The Rev. Dr. Melvin Owens, pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church, LaFayette in and president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, said that each of us should always be grateful to see the dawning of tomorrow.

“We know not what it will bring, but we hope and pray it will lead us into the light and that we get past the darkness of the difficult times we are going through,” Owens said. “Heal us and help us according to God’s will. We should never turn away from God.”

The Rev. Dr. Mildred Watson of Love One Million Ways in Birmingham, said that each one of us should pray for deliverance from the pandemic and for an end of racial injustice and political unrest.

”God has brought us from the cotton fields, through the cotton mills to where we are today,” she said. “We hold memories that are so dear. It’s God who can give hope to the hopeless. We should pray for all those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic. We know they are weary with all they have gone through, but it’s our hope they will not give up.”

As Jay Lewis played “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” on piano, Christy Brock-Johnson noted it was one of Dr. King’s favorite spirituals. The program then had some black and white photos of Dr. King during the 1960s. In one of them, he was with a very young John Lewis. Another showed Dr. King before the mammoth crowd gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial for his famed “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Another photo showed Dr. King and wife Coretta Scott King in a happy moment with their daughter as she was learning to play the piano.

It was announced during the program that AKA members will be delivering gift baskets to local healthcare workers and first responders.

“They deserve our gratitude for what they have done this past year,” Brock-Johnson said.

One advantage to the program being virtual is that viewers could post messages of approval as the speakers were talking or the singers singing.

The chapter basileus, Bessie Jackson, thanked everyone for participating.

“This pandemic did not stop us from being active,” she said. “Our God inspired us to continue being of service. Dr. King told us that anyone could be great through service to their fellow man. All that’s needed is a heart of grace and a soul generated by love. Let’s continue to console those with broken hearts and to be unified as a people.”

The local chapter recently sent care packages to four local nursing homes.

“I want to thank the pastors who joined with us today for their words of comfort and their prayers,” Jackson said.

“We are praying for this current situation to be turned around,” Dr. Monique Summers of the St. Luke AME Church in Opelika, said in a closing message. “Forgive us for our wrongdoings, and help us to forgive others for the wrongs they do. We are hurting. We ask you to heal us in every way. To God alone belongs the glory.”