Photo Gallery | Martin Luther King celebrations on Sunday
The harmonies were exquisite, the melodies inspiring, but Shirley Edgerton's words were the heart and soul of the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lenox Sunday afternoon.
Halfway through the concert event, the Pittsfield activist Edgerton told an audience of more than 300 to "go out with divine dissatisfaction ... until integration is not seen as a problem, but as an opportunity."
Edgerton's remarks came during a "Spiritual Sing," honoring King on his 87th birthday. The tribute to the slain American civil rights leader featured the a capella selections of the Berkshire-based Cantilena Chamber Choir and the vocalizations of the Price Memorial AME Zion Church Gospel Choir of Pittsfield. The finale featured both groups onstage singing together the songs "Total Praise" and "Just Want To Praise You."
Music and inspirational oration also filled the Second Congregational Church in Pittsfield for their 36th annual memorial service to celebrate King's life and for social, economic, political and educational equality for all, not just African Americans.
The nearly two-hour gathering included several uplifting songs such as "We've Come This Far by Faith," selections from the Macedonia Baptist Church choir and a classical instrumental from "Kids 4 Harmony," a group of Pittsfield student violinists from Morningside Community School and Herberg Middle School.
Guest speaker, Rev. Leonard Comithier Jr. of the Macedonia Baptist Church in Albany N.Y., called King one of the "great prophets of the 20th century." Nearly 50 years since King's assassination, the former pastor of the Second Congregational Church felt the new millennium is in need of someone like King and his faith-based approach to social justice.
"I'm not interested in being political correct, but spiritually obedient," Comithier said.
At Trinity Church, Edgerton spoke of King's mission that must still be carried out today.
"We need our white brothers and sisters to talk about racism," exhorted Edgerton. "We need you to see our blackness and celebrate it."
King's vision has also yet to be fully realized.
"We have prayed, marched, boycotted, been beaten, spat upon, even killed, and an African-American has been elected president," she said, to applause, "but racism remains, more covertly now than during the Civil Rights era."
The answer to eradicating racism and achieving social justice lies with peaceful solutions, according to Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn.
He pointed to cities where violent protests followed deadly shootings by police of African Americans.
"We ask you for your help in holding [police] accountable within a system of social justice," he said during his remarks at the Second Congregational Church.