Martin Luther King Community Events

As shared in the Reading Eagle on January 20, 2015:

Tackling tough topics for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Montgomery County

By Paige Cooperstein

The lights came up on a black-box stage with words like “evolution” and “dream” written in white alongside “injustice” and “evil.” A black-and-white video of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. began to play Monday night at New Hanover United Methodist Church in Montgomery County. King extolled the virtues of nonviolent resistance and praised police who uphold the law equally.

The 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day service, hosted by the Boyertown Area Ministerial Association, had a theme of law enforcement and civil disobedience. David M. Lewis, pastor at New Hanover United Methodist, and Daniel Williams, chaplain at Pine Forge Academy in Douglass Township, chose the theme because of recent protests spurred by grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City. Many across the nation were angry over decisions not to indict white police officers in cases involving claims of excessive force against black men.

To celebrate unity and equality, the choirs from Pine Forge and Boyertown High School sang three songs each and performed a skit. Pottstown’s Police Chief F. Richard Drumheller and Kevin McKeon, New Hanover’s police chief, attended the event and joined in singing “We Shall Overcome” with both choirs. The 90-minute service drew about 200 people.

“It’s a beautiful opportunity for the community to come together, united, especially in this time of social unrest.” said Nicole Falconer, Pine Forge principal. The students did not shy away from the recent controversies.”

When Pastor Dave told me he wanted the performance to be relevant, we decided to be accurate in showcasing various perspectives,” Williams said before the skit. “We had no intention to vilify any people, but to remind us of the necessity of keeping Martin Luther King’s dream alive.” Williams arranged a series of vignettes with the students that addressed different reactions to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. It also tackled stereotypes that white and black people have of one another. The skit received a standing ovation.

Emily Gilbert, 18, a senior at Boyertown High School, has performed at the service for the past three years. She thought this year’s skit was especially powerful. “Being a part of it, I can say it was great,” Gilbert said. “The Pine Forge kids are great to work with. They’re so kind and Danny (Williams) was a good leader.”

In an impromptu move during the performance of “We Shall Overcome,” students from Boyertown and Pine Forge joined hands and raised them above their heads. “Seeing the choirs come together and hold hands at the end was touching to the heart,” said Dr. Richard Faidley, Boyertown’s superintendent.

Contact Paige Cooperstein: 610-371-5021 or pcooperstein@readingeagle.com.

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