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Published on February 20, 2024
Portland Honors MLK Legacy with "Empower The Dream" Service and Arts Tribute, Reaffirms Commitment to Racial EqualitySource: Facebook/Shon Neyland

Portland's local leaders and community members gathered to honor the legacy of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Events across the city encompassed historical reflection and commitments to continue his work of advancing equality and social justice.

The Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church, which had the distinction of hosting Dr. King in 1961, presented its "Empower The Dream" service. According to KOIN, the service was led by Rev. Dr. J.W. Matt Hennessee, who uniquely ties his lineage to Dr. King, being the godson of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. The ceremony also included Dr. Jessica Taylor, the first Black female president of Multnomah University, as the keynote speaker, and drew the presence of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, among other dignitaries.

On another part of town, the World Arts Foundation held its 39th annual Martin Luther King Jr. tribute at the Highland Christian Center. As reported by OregonLive, the event featured performances from local artists and musicians and honored a slate of community leaders with the newly named Sandra G. Wadsworth Lifetime Achievement Award. Among the recipients were Harvey Garnett, Donny Adair, and Rukaiyah Adams for their contributions to Oregon's Black community.

Reflecting on his commitment to justice, Donny Adair said, "Until people have love for their enemies like Martin Luther King did, that's when we will really overcome all of this discrimination that still exists in our society today," which highlights the ongoing relevance of Dr. King's principles in current advocacies.

 Moreover, Rev. Dr. Hennessee emphasized the significance of Dr. King's words and the work that continues beyond them, especially in Portland. He said, "In times like these, it is imperative that we embody the spirit, character, and courage of Dr. King," and, "Together, we will keep the dream alive." Both statements were obtained by KOIN.

The annual service at Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church not only commemorates Dr. King's legacy but also presents scholarships to youth and includes various faith leaders in its roster. KPTV reported that Hennessee, during his address, emphasized the long-standing impact of Dr. King's work and called upon everyone to play their part in realizing the dream. “Every one of us must be willing to say ‘I’m going to do my part’, whether it’s how I raise my children, how I do my work at work…whether it’s facing issues like homelessness whether it’s gun violence, whether it’s furthering the cause of Dr. King, everyone can do that, everyone can take part,”