By Journalist Ms. Jones
NEWBURGH – “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character. I have a dream today.”- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many of us know Dr. King by his speech known as “I Have a Dream,” but Rev. Dr. Carl L. Washington, Jr., pastor of the New Mount Zion Baptist Church in Harlem, informed us that was not the actual name of the speech during his message Sunday, January 15th at The 55th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at Baptist Temple Church. The speech had several versions and titles, including “Normalcy, Never Again” and “Normalcy Speech.”
“It was Mahalia Jackson who said, ‘Tell them about the dream, Martin,’ in the middle of his speech,” said Rev. Washington, speaking of Dr. King’s improvisation of the rest of his speech with “I Have a Dream” points.
Rev. Washington knew Dr. King personally. He stated how Dr. King gave everyone a call to action with his “Call to Consciousness” speech. Rev. Washington also gave everyone a call to action during his speech.
“If you invite these gang leaders in and treat them with some respect and talk to them, you might find out what’s really bothering them,” said Rev. Washington. “I’ve met with them in church. I’ve met with them in school. I’ve got a bunch of former gang affiliated people in my church because I go into the street with them. You’re not gonna change this community until you get out there.”
Police Commissioner Jose Gomerez agrees wholeheartedly. He thinks the call to action is appropriate.
“We do need action in Newburgh. We have to do it together with all the stakeholders… The police cannot do it alone. Especially with the help of church leaders, we can do it together,” said Commissioner Gomerez. “I am in contact with the Christian ministers. We are in conversation. We talk quite often.”
The 55th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration that included singing and preaching was packed with ministers. It was sponsored by The Christian Ministerial Fellowship of Newburgh & Vicinity. They were gearing up to answer the call to action on MLK Day the next day to pray in the streets on William and Broadway.
“The Christian Ministerial Fellowship, they used to go out and pray in the streets and go out where the gangs are and just really get out there and pray. We said that we were going to stop talking about it and just do it. So last meeting, which was only a couple of weeks ago, we made a plan to go out there on Monday and we’re going to continue to go out on at least a monthly basis… Then as we go out, it’ll continue to grow and continue to grow. [We’re going to] just really pray in the streets and let them know that we care about them and know that we’re not behind four walls, but we’re out there with them,” said Bishop Robert J. Bolton, Jr., pastor of One Accord Christian Church, Inc. He is the Vice President of The Christian Ministerial Fellowship of Newburgh & Vicinity.
The Christian Ministerial Fellowship of Newburgh & Vicinity continues to pray for the community. They pray against gun violence and substance abuse. They pray against inaccurate Central Hudson billing and inhumane evictions. They are praying for preserving the history of urban renewal and earthing the remains of the African American skeletons found at the old Broadway School in Downing Park. Homelessness has been a huge priority since they formed.
“In a time of segregation when several prominent pastors in Newburgh were inspired to join forces and affect change in their community, The Black Ministerial Fellowship was born… During the Civil Rights Movement, nationally, there was civil unrest and widespread discriminatory practices that were employing against… African Americans. These pastors designed to have a community that treated everyone equally and that provided equal opportunities for fair housing and employment. Through the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who was a Baptist preacher, activist, and one of the most prominent leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, pivotal legislation gains were achieved in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Dr. King’s effort and advancement provided a pathway for The Black Ministerial Fellowship of Newburgh to assist the residents. The local founders had this foresight to envision housing for the less fortunate,” said Elder Anthony Slade, Pastor of Holy Temple, UHC of America Inc. and member of The Christian Ministerial Fellowship of Newburgh & Vicinity. “In 1989, Project L.I.F.E. was realized through a partnership… It continues to provide temporary housing for families… Project L.I.F.E. is a step in the journey toward a family searching for permanent housing.”
Their work in the community doesn’t stop there. The Christian Ministerial Fellowship of Newburgh & Vicinity also provides financial assistance to students.
“We give out five, $700 scholarships in book awards to our graduating seniors that are accepted to a college. They are given in the names of some of our founders,” said Rev. Dr. Dollyann Briggs, pastor of Baptist Temple Church, Inc. and president of The Christian Ministerial Fellowship of Newburgh & Vicinity; she is the first African American female elected to this office in the organization’s 55-year existence. Some of those founders of The Christian Ministerial Fellowship of Newburgh & Vicinity include: Bishop Dr. Coleman Briggs, Rev. Dr. James L. Best, Rev. Dr. Robert S. Williams, Sr., Rev. Dr. Saul S. Williams, and Rev. Dr. Ralph E. Harris. Scholarship applications are available through The Christian Ministerial Fellowship of Newburgh & Vicinity pastors from April 1st-May 15th. Students must have a pastoral recommendation letter to apply.