City officials gather at historic King site to promote equality.
"It seems particularly fitting to visit this site dedicated to the memory of Mar tin Luther King Jr., in this city, at this moment in our time," said NLC President Dennis W. Archer, mayor of Detroit, during an event at Ebenezer Baptist Church Horizon Sanctuary, part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. The site also includes King's gravesite and childhood home and the original Ebenezer Baptist Church where he preached.
About 700 people attended the event, a short bus ride away from the Georgia World Congress Center, where most conference activities were held, to examine how cities and their leaders can promote race equality.
Archer said city leaders were gathering at the church to try to "eliminate racism in America once and for all."
W. E. B. DuBois said the problem of the 20th century was the problem of color, yet America is still fighting this problem, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell remarked at the event.
Attendees stood on sacred ground, he said, and leaders have an obligation to give children a better world.
"We must erase this division," Campbell said, asserting that persons of different races are more alike than they are different.
NLC Immediate Past President Bob Knight, mayor of Wichita, Kan., began NLC's initiative for promoting race equality during his tenure as president. Archer praised Knight's efforts to eradicate racism and his courage to speak out on the issue.
Knight described the event as the most important part of the conference in Atlanta
"Dr. King gave his life for people like me to be able to say and do the things we do," Knight said.
Knight said the nation must show "that we can walk the walk as well as talk the talk."
"With the 2000 Census we know what we look like; the question is what will we look like?" he said. People must define what it means to be in America and the values we live by.
Americans are more integrated as a society now more than ever, Knight said. "I believe this diversity enriches our lives in a nonmaterial way."
Mayor Campbell introduced the event's keynote speaker, Rev. C. T. Vivian, a pioneer of the civil rights movement and frequent speaker on the subject.
Vivian spoke about how King and his contemporaries used peace and love, not violence, to spread their message of equality. Those methods brought about more freedom in the shortest amount of time since the American Revolution.
"We sit here because they were able to take whatever America brought them to bring about a better world for us," he said.
Vivian chronicled the fight for voting rights for African Americans, and how the civil rights movement helped bring new industry and technology into the South.
"The civil rights movement forced the country to deal with certain issues and bring about more opportunities," he said. "The civil rights movement pulled the South into the 20th Century."
Vivian spoke about continuing King's legacy that it is better to love than to hate, a spirit that in today's world has economic and political consequences. He also said it is important to realize the importance that the civil rights movement and King's work still have today.
Following the singing of "His Eye is on the Sparrow" by soloist Mary Gurly, the event closed with all the participants joining hands and singing a chorus of "We Shall Overcome" to honor King and his legacy.
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|Title Annotation:||2001 National League of Cities Congress of Cities in Atlanta|
|Author:||Hogan, Cyndy Liedtke; Turner, Laura|
|Publication:||Nation's Cities Weekly|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Dec 17, 2001|
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