BY DEIRDRE O’LEARY, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — This year’s MLK Candlelight Vigil came less than two weeks after a violent white supremacist mob stormed the U.S. capital in a riot that resulted in six people losing their lives. Several members of Congress narrowly escaped the mob that carried weapons into the capitol building.
Many speakers at this year’s spirit-filled emotional reflection on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about the riot, the dark times facing our nation and the need for all of us to hold the light.
“During the time of darkness that looms about us, we have the opportunity to be the light. During this critical time in our nation’s history, we ask you to be the light of the world,” said Terri Lipsey Scott, executive director of the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.
Saxophone player Jordan Bolds opened the vigil with the Negro National Anthem and played at intervals throughout the night during the virtual event held Sunday, Jan. 17, while Mayia Stevens wowed viewers with her operatic vocals.
Elected officials spoke, including Congressman Charlie Crist, Mayor Rick Kriseman, City Councilpersons Gina Driscoll, Lisa Wheeler Bowman, Darden Rice, Deborah Figgs-Sanders and Brandi Gabbard.
Rev. Louis M. Murphy Sr., senior pastor of Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, said, “Jesus is the light of the world. We are the moonchildren to reflect that light. Let us live our lives to reflect that light.”
Daniel Sanders played the part of master of ceremony and also brought the youth perspective when he said we as a country seek truth-tellers.
“Truth tellers who are required to be the light in our homes, our communities, our cities, our states and our nation. Will you be the light moving forward, and how will you let your light shine,” he asked.
Rabbi Philip Weintraub, Congregation B’nai Israel, said, “When we speak to one another, we use words of light or words of darkness. We can lift one another up or push one another down. Dr. King chose not violence but a path of peace.”
JC Pritchett, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, added, “Today calls for us to be courageous. We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And we must love ourselves.”
Rev. Clarence Williams, senior pastor of Greater Mt. Zion AME, spoke most directly about the capitol’s recent attack.
“It’s a dark time in our country. There are dark forces at work in our nation. But there is hope. There is a day coming that will be better than the one we have seen. Let us cast off the works of darkness. It is going to be difficult for us to move into the new day until we really purge the nation, the Congress, the executive branch, and the judicial branch of these evil workers of darkness who have been parading themselves as legitimate legislators. They are nothing more than workers of evil and darkness who perpetrate insurrection, sedition and murder. Until we purge our nation of them, we won’t be able to put on the armor of light.”
To reach Deirdre O’Leary, email do’firstname.lastname@example.org