An Atlanta-based national civil rights leader is calling this year for supporters of Martin Luther King Jr., who is his uncle, to serve humanity on the day designated to remember him.
Isaac Newton Farris earlier this month visited the Bethel African Methodist Church in North Little Rock and called on all who miss his uncle to dedicate Martin Luther King Day as a time of serving people who are in need.
Farris said his family’s long line of ministers are supporters of what is called the social gospel.
“These are ministers who believed the teachings of Jesus who challenged people of faith to serve humanity,” Farris said. “I wonder what our Lord would make the gospel of today’s prosperity gospel with their luxury cars and machines – while the poor languish in ghettos. The calling of Christ was a challenge to serve the least of these.”
Farris said his home church of Ebenezer Baptist Church was a center of community service and activism before his Uncle M.L. was born.
“In my family, your spiritual life required you to serve the poor and do what you can to alleviate human suffering,” Farris said. “This is what it means to be a servant of Christ. I am not a minister but I carry this message.”
Farris said the best way to honor MLK is to serve people on the holiday that bears his name.
Shortly after legislation passed nationwide where Martin Luther King Day was recognized in more parts of the country he and his fellow family members wanted MLK Day to be a call for community service.
“We did not want it to be a day of hero worship,” Farris said. “He is my uncle. He was the greatest man of the 20th Century. But if my uncle were here today he would say, ‘Look I appreciate it but don’t sit around and talk about how great I was. If you think I was great then go out and do something’.”
Farris added, “The King holiday must be a day of service. It is a day of volunteering, feeding the hungry and consoling the brokenhearted. It is not a day for chilling in the park or grilling around the barbeque grill.”
In 2012, one million acts of service were done on Martin Luther King Day.
“The need for community serviced remains great,” Farris said. “One of four children live in poverty. There are cities with homeless people and substandard housing. We have fallen schools and drug and crime invested communities.”
Farris said people should do four activities in MLK Day: 1) reach out and help people in need; 2) set a beautiful and contagious example of caring; 3) build a spirit of good will; 4) enrich our lives by living with purpose.
Farris said people should also be open to mentoring young people.
“It doesn’t cost any money,” Farris said. “When we empower young people we are fighting crime, drug abuse, family violence and the decline of American cities.”
Farris added, “I hope all of you will answer the call.”
The Jacksonville community heeded the call on Monday when it declared the day as a citywide cleanup day of service.
Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher signed the proclamation for the Day of Service. The day of service was sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, the Jacksonville NAACP and the city of Jacksonville.
The event started at 10 a.m. and finished at 2 p.m. where volunteers cleaned up various properties of people who were unable to do the work themselves, many of whom were elderly.
In an advertising flyer promoting the event, it read, “Adults and youth, bring your gloves and rakes and energy. We will serve the seniors and those who are unable to bring debris to the curb for city pickup.”