Sister Mabel Easton of Nazareth Baptist Church remembers the first time the church hosted a celebration honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “There were maybe 10 people here,” she said Monday during her welcome at the annual service on Church Street in Orange. Then-Rev. James Gafford approached the Orange County School Board and asked why schools weren’t closed for the King holiday. “He was told, ‘No one is doing anything,’ “ Easton said to the audience of approximately 75 Monday afternoon. “Well we are and we have been!”

The Rev. James McIntosh, associate pastor at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Nasons, delivered Monday’s keynote address.

He spoke of Amos, a “minor” prophet, according to theologians, but one with a “major” message.

He likened the Old Testament Amos—a prophet for social justice—with the Rev. Dr. King—also a prophet for social justice. The Rev. McIntosh said just as Amos had been charged to educate the 8th-century B.C. Israelites to the error of their ways, so too was Dr. King bringing a message of deliverance to America in the mid-20th century.

“Dr. King also was a prophet of social justice, who, like Amos, came from the South to the North and spoke to the conscience of America,” the Rev. McIntosh said. “He spoke for the poor, the disenfranchised and the disinherited.”

He drew parallels from the words of Amos that Dr. King invoked in his remarks in his letter from a Birmingham jail, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

The Rev. McIntosh suggested America needed “more prophets of social justice” and said America today is like the Israel of Amos’ era. “Who will step up and be a prophet of social justice?” he challenged.

The program, which featured music by Little Zion Baptist Church, concluded with those in attendance singing “We Shall Overcome,” the popular anthem of the civil rights movement.

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