ABOVE PHOTO: Min. Rodney Muhammad
For the Philadelphia NAACP, Monday marks the end of an era.
By Denise Clay
Don’t get him wrong, Minister Rodney Muhammad has no problem with the Philadelphia NAACP’s tradition of holding a service at Bright Hope Baptist Church to commemorate the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.
But the President of the Philadelphia NAACP believes that it might be time for the organization to focus more on King’s life beyond the “I Have A Dream” speech. While it’s nice to commemorate the man and his achievements, the “public King” and the “actual King” are starting to become two entirely different people, Muhammad said.
“At the end of his life, King was unpopular,” he said. “[Journalist] Carl T. Rowan called him a traitor to his race and his country. About 55 percent of the country had turned against King due to a propaganda campaign and 165 major newspapers denounced him. It’s easy to seduce and sedate people with the ceremonial stuff, but the public is getting away from who King was and what he stood for.”
It is for that reason that this will be the last year that the Philadelphia NAACP will be partnering with the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity to host the annual church service commemorating King’s life and legacy. The Black Clergy had been wanting to move the service to Sunday for a while now, and Muhammad believes that it’s time to allow them to do that, he said.
Besides, the NAACP would better serve the community by educating Philadelphians about King, his legacy, and what he’d probably ask of Philadelphia’s Black community in the current day, Muhammad said.
“We want to do educational forums and leave the ceremony to the clergy,” Muhammad said. “We’d like to bring in the people who worked with Dr. King so that they can share their knowledge with us of what they think King might be doing where he still alive.”
This year’s speaker, Jonathan Jackson, begins that trend. Jackson, an economics professor at Chicago State University, national spokesman for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, will be sharing his knowledge about the organization’s civil rights work and how it continues the legacy of King and his father.
There will also be a focus on voting, Muhammad said. This year, the Philadelphia NAACP will be taking survey that looks at what keeps people away from the polls, and how that can be modified to increase participation in the political process.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration will begin at 9 AM on Monday, Jan. 18 at Bright Hope Baptist Church, 1601 N. 12th St.