Antioch Baptist Church hosted a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration Sunday. The celebration, titled “Remembering with Action” was presented by the Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Committee. This was the 34th year for the event that was held at the historic Madison County church and featured the Reverend Dr. Lehman Bates III, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church of Charlottesville, as the guest speaker.

The celebration honoring the slain civil rights leader alternates between Little Zion Baptist Church in Orange and Antioch Baptist Church in Madison and is run by the Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Committee which is made up of representatives from area churches in Madison, Orange and Louisa. Several area churches were represented including Swift Ford Baptist Church, Main Uno Baptist Church, Beth Carr Baptist Church and Madison Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the only non-president to be honored with a national holiday. Dr. King’s contributions to the American Civil Rights Movement and his non-violent campaigns against poverty and social injustice are considered to be his most significant accomplishments and the national holiday in his honor is often viewed as a day for community service and activism.

Over 100 people from around the region listened to scripture readings, music performed by the Swift Ford Baptist Youth and the Main Uno Baptist Church Youth Choir, special presentations and keynote speaker, the Rev. Bates III.

The Rev. Bates III has worked in the computer industry as a consultant before becoming pastor. He is involved with many organizations in Charlottesville including the Charlottesville Anti-Gang Task Force, the Charlottesville Citizens Advisory Council, University and Community Action for Racial Equality, Charlottesville Water Resources Advisory Committee and the United Way Funding Review Board. He has also been involved in several humanitarian aid projects both domestically and abroad.

Bates spoke to the crowd about tradition and truth and encouraged everyone to understand how history shapes the future. He encouraged people to seek common ground in today’s hyper-polarized society, to focus on similarities, not differences in ethnicity, nationality or race and challenged the audience to realize that we are not fragmented groups, but all one human family.

“Tradition often keeps us from seeking out the truth,” said Bates. “Our history affects us, but we cannot let it override the search for truth.”

After Bates’ speech, representatives of Antioch Baptist Church, the Reverend Frank D. Lewis Sr. and sister Kimberly Nixon made special presentations on behalf of the Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Committee. Lewis and Nixon presented a check for $500 to the MESA food pantry, honoring the organization for its contribution to the community. The group also honored Madison resident Ren LeVally with the 2019 MLK Jr. Civil Service Award for his many contributions to the community. LeVally is vice-president of Rural Madison, a long-time member of the NAACP, the Madison Education Foundation the Madison Literacy Council and has organized the Stone Soup project, a work training program.

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