McAlester resident Cecil Lee says he wishes the whole nation could come together like the MLK Unity Choir.

The choir sang and swayed to open the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Ceremony at the Grand Avenue Methodist Church on Friday.

Lee said he’s sang with the choir about six or seven years. He noted it consists of people from different races and backgrounds.

“It’s called the MLK Unity Choir,” Lee said. “One day we’ll all work together, hand-in-hand, like Dr. King dreamed.”

The choir, directed by Loise Washington, opened with “All I Want to Do” and followed it with “Lean on Me,” with the voice of soloist Johnny Boyce soaring above the singers on the spirited gospel-tinged songs.

The music led into remarks by the keynote speaker District 18 state Rep. Terry Harrison, D-McAlester, introduced by his wife, McAlester Attorney Amy Harrison.

“What an honor it is for our family to be included in a program on such an incredible person and his legacy,” Amy Harrison said.

Terry Harrison said he thought about having a staff member at the state Capitol write his speech and he also sat down with a pile of books to find some ideas.

He ultimately decided that neither approach would be sincere, so he decided to seek inspiration from the heart.

“God believes in us,” Harrison said. “Sometimes it’s hard for us to understand that God is with us every day.”

Harrison said racism deals with the accident of birth, not character or ability.

Speaking of the absurdity of racism, Harrison asked the crowd to assume that men with big hips are the elite and powerful.

“If you want to go to college, you don’t have to do well on a test,” Harrison said. “Simply have big hips.”

“The bigger the hips, the better the college,” Harrison said. “Isn’t that stupid? That’s racism in a nutshell.”

Harrison said the love of God and Christ can prevail.

“Today is the best time in the history of the world to be a Christian,” Harrison said.

“Right now, God is at work through us.”

“If we share love with our brothers and sisters in Christ, there’s no oppression in the world we can’t overcome. There’s no dream that can’t come true.”

DeNoah K. Davis had been among those attending the ceremony. Davis, who was married to the late Rev. K.D. Davis, said she had been out of town and unable to attend the event for a couple of years.

It’s good to be back, she said after the ceremony closed.

Dr. David Cressman, pastor of the Grand Avenue Methodist Church, closed the proceedings, which were dedicated to the memory of J. William Allford and Fannie Lois Warren.

“Thank God for the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King,” Cressman said in his closing prayer.

“We remember the footsteps of Dr. King,” he said, recalling how King dodged snarling police dogs in Alabama during civil rights marches in the 1960s.

“We remember Dr. King for refusing to yield to the temptation of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and instead turning the other cheek,” Cressman said, referring to King’s beliefs in nonviolence.

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