The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin and end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
That was also the message of Lee A. Gill, chief diversity officer and associate vice president for inclusion and equity at the University of Akron, who spoke about King’s struggle at a commemoration service held Sunday afternoon at Second Baptist Church, 451 Bronson St., Medina.
“We need to understand that there’s still a fight to be had,” Gill told more than 100 churchgoers. “Just because we elected Barack Obama, are we post-racial? No.”
Gill has spent 25 years working in the private and public sectors to promote equality and diversity.
He has a law degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in political science and sociology from the University of Michigan.
Gill said King wasn’t the first to speak out about racial inequality, and he shouldn’t be last. King followed Homer Plessy, Heman Marion Sweatt and Thurgood Marshall, who fought in court against segregation — especially the “separate but equal” legal doctrine.
Though segregation was abolished, Gill said black Americans face new struggles in inequality. The greatest of them, he said, was differing education and failing to abide by the values and morals set by King.
“As we celebrate Martin Luther King’s life and legacy,” Gill said, “think about what you’re doing in your life to further his message.”
David Reed, who spoke at the service on behalf of the church, said he agreed with Gill.
“The future of America does not lie in the courtroom,” he said. “It lies in properly educating America’s youth.”
He said with proper education, youth can understand the importance of voting — the very right King worked so hard to achieve.
“People must understand that the power of a single vote does count.”
Among the 100 in attendance were Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell, several City Council members, county Commissioners Steve Hambley and Adam Frederick, Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler, county Auditor Mike Kovack and county Board of Elections Chairwoman Pamela Miller.
The Rev. C. P. Carter, the church’s senior pastor, said he hoped King’s message would live on.
“Dr. King dreamed of a world characterized by hope, peace and justice for all,” Carter said. “By sharing and celebrating his dream, we make great strides in creating that world right here in Medina County.”
Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.