Rochon speaks at historic church that was at center of Montgomery Bus Boycott

1/20/2013


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (January 20, 2013) – Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon joined the congregation of famed Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in honoring the life and legacy of one of the nation’s most revered Civil Rights Movement leaders. Activists Martin Luther King, Jr. and Vernon Johns both served as pastors at the now historic landmark in Montgomery, Ala. According to the National Parks Service, the church was “the backbone” of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and a model for future grassroots demonstrations. 

 
Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon addresses the audience at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. 
 
 
Chasiti Walker, a junior accounting major and member of the Tuskegee University Golden Voices Choir, performs "Give Me Jesus." 
Invited by Dexter member and Tuskegee alumna, Consuello Jenkins-Harper, Rochon served as the guest speaker for the church’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Program today. After a stirring performance of “Give Me Jesus” by Chasiti Walker, a junior accounting major and member of the Tuskegee University Golden Voices Choir, Rochon delivered a lesson to the audience reinforcing the importance of the black church in the heritage of historically black education. Using examples such Alabama State and Tuskegee universities, he explained that the black church had an important supportive role in the creation of many of today’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 

“The black church and historically black colleges and universities served as crucibles for the formation of leaders who would have profound impact on enhancing the ethics, access to education, health, career opportunities, and enfranchisement not only for African-Americans, but also inspiring international societal transformation,” he said.

Rochon also shared a portion of one of his favorite King speeches with the congregation. Rochon quoted from an address that the leader gave to New York’s Hunter College in 1965 in protest of South African apartheid. Afterward, Rochon listed some of the incomplete goals of civil rights movements in America and abroad including reinvesting in inner city economies and sustainable development in South Africa.

“We have not yet reached the mountain top, but we have passed significant milestones along the way,” Rochon said. “However, we have an unfinished mission.”
 
After the service, Rochon said he remembered seeing King’s casket at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church after the 39-year-old clergyman and activist was assassinated in 1968. He said being a part of the program was a “glorious sequel to the last time I was at a Martin Luther King-affiliated church.”

“It was a very moving experience and very humbling to be here on this occasion,” Rochon said. “I felt that it was important to point out the linkages between our respective institutions. The black church and historically black colleges have been arm-in-arm in the struggle for human rights and for the enhancement of opportunities for our children and our people.”


Members of the church and university community listen during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Program.


Rochon and Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church pastor, Rev. Cromwell A. Handy, right, stand in front of a wreath laid in rememberance of Martin Luther King, Jr.



© 2013 Tuskegee University

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