Concluding Freedom City 2017

A service to mark 50 years since the death of Martin Luther King, combined with the launch of an exhibition documenting Freedom City 2017
On Thursday April 26th a memorial service was held at St Thomas Church, Haymarket, 50 years to the day since the staff and students of Newcastle University held a Memorial Service at the same venue for Revd Dr Martin Luther King following his death in 1968.


Rev Jeffrey Brown meets Newcastle Children who attended the service.


“Moving” was a word that we heard often at the social gathering after the service. Perhaps uppermost in people’s minds in considering it 'moving' was the contribution of Amina from Colour Blind, a group of local young female poets from minority religious and ethnic backgrounds. She delivered a powerful prose-poem about how racism, sexism and religiously-targeted prejudice affected her. “Moving” also applied to the sermon by Revd Dr Jeffrey Brown reflecting on King’s legacy and encouraging us to continue the work he had begun.


The service itself also allowed the 140 or so people present to hear a brilliantly put together reflection from Brian Ward, Professor of American Studies at Northumbria University, which told us so much in a relatively short time about Martin Luther King and what was going on for him at the time he received his honorary degree at Newcastle and in the time leading up to his martyrdom.


Chi Onwuruh, MP for Newcastle Central, read an extract from King’s 1967 ‘Christmas Sermon on Peace’ about the interconnectedness of the world as demonstrated by the food and drink served at our breakfast tables, and shared something of why King had been such an important influence on her growing up. It was great too that the current Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University, Dr Chris Day could be present and read one of the Biblical passages shared in the service: the then Vice Chancellor had taken part in the service 50 years earlier.


The service included, towards the end, a symbolic action inspired by a contemporary quote about picking up the baton from the blood to carry on the prophetic work of activists like Dr Martin Luther King. Most of the congregation responded to the invitation to pick up a small bamboo stick which was partially covered with red acrylic paint as their response of commitment to picking up that baton in their own life. A litany of reflective commitment followed, which helped us to consider some of the implications of picking up that baton.


The music reflected an American theme but with words that somewhat subverted the militaristic context often associated with the tunes, though 'Sing we a song of high revolt' by Fred Kaan (a meditation on the Magnificat) was supported in its message by the tune often associated with the Red Flag.


The service also saw the launch of an exhibition to showcase the Freedom City 2017 programme. 
The service was a collaboration between St Thomas' Church and the Martin Luther King Peace Committee