Bethany Baptist Church Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Jan 14, 2020

Wonderful music will once again fill Bethany Baptist Church this Sunday, as the Church's Lecture Committee presents "Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." Vocalist and songwriter Cassandra Wilson will be the special musical guest at Sunday's program, which begins at 2:30 p.m.

Three of the people involved in the program sat down this week with WBGO News Director Doug Doyle to talk about the event. 

Rev. Nichols, Jackie Harris and Father Leahy at WBGO
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO

Bethany Baptist Church's Minister of Music Rev. Karlos Nichols says Dr. King loved many kinds of music.

"(Sunday's event) is programmed with very deep intent knowing the very deep respect that Dr. King had for music and for what music did for the movement.  We all know the story about how Mahalia (Jackson) was the one who told him to shoot for the 'I have a dream ending' at the end of his speech.   Knowing the respect and admiration he had for good music.  Not just any kind of music.  He loved Jazz.  He loved Blues." 

Cassandra Wilson, Rev. Nichols and the Bethany Baptist Church Choir will all present music during the program at 275 West Market Street in Newark.

Rev. Edwin Leahy, the Headmaster at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark will introduce the Keynote Speaker Jonathan Capehart, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from the Washington Post.  Father Leahy remembers Capehart as a student at St. Benedict's Prep.

"He wanted to be the anchor of  NBC's Today Show.  That was his goal as a 17-year old. You don't find many 17-year olds saying that and actually carrying out that kind of desire.  So he knew very young that he wanted to be a critic, a social commentator and he actually has done it."

Capehurt is also a regular contributor for MSNBC , a member of the Washington Post's editorial board and a podcast host.

Sunday's music-filled program at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark features Cassandra Wilson
Credit Bethany Baptist Church

Jackie Harris, Chair of Bethany Baptist Church's Lecture Committee, stresses everyone is invited to Sunday's program.

"This is a celebration of Dr. King's contributions.  It's a celebration of people and mankind.  It is also a program to encourage dialogue and conversation with children, with adults.  You know Dr. King made an impact on the world.  His outreach was not just to a certain class of people, certain sexes, it was for mankind.  This is what this celebration will do."

The Pastor of Bethany Baptist Church Rev. Timothy Adkins-Jones and Cassandra Wilson will give recitations from Dr. King's speeches.

Rev. Nichols says he remembers when he first heard the voice of Dr. King it became so impressionable he couldn't forget it.

"You can't forget the sound.  You can't forget the voicing of what we would consider now in rhetorical circles the authentic black rhetoric.  You hear everything that is mirrored in what is being taught is seminaries now about engagement, about critical thinking, about critical engagment , about the critique of the systems of the world and most of all doing it authentically where people years from the initial delivery of the speech can continue to listen to it and hear how impactful those words are still today.  His words and his voice, the resonance and the prophetic impulses that it has, I still feel the same way about it as if it is fresh every single time.  It's a very familiar and deeply touching sound that I can still recognize."