Community observes spirit of civil-rights movement

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Early in the last century, members of the Ku Klux Klan marched in Albert Lea

Until several years ago, a local hate group that tried to propagate biblical-based bigotry was active.

Monday, on the day to celebrate the 74th birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mayor Jean Eaton made it clear that Albert Lea needs to be a color-blind community.

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&uot;My hope for the people of this community is that we take the values of Dr. King and use that to make Albert Lea the best community it can be,&uot; Eaton said to an audience gathered for an annual breakfast to commemorate the slain civil rights leader at First Lutheran Church. &uot;I understand that a progressive community is a diverse community.&uot;

&uot;This is not a black holiday,&uot; she continued. &uot;It’s a people’s holiday. Today is not a celebration, remembrance or education tribute.&uot; She encouraged the participants to get involved in volunteer activities to serve others in need. She also emphasized the need for people, particularly kids, to love regardless of skin color.

&uot;It’s time that we stop sitting silent, and we speak out,&uot; said the Rev. Lee Freshour, pastor at Assemblies of God Church. &uot;I want to encourage you to stand for racial reconciliation, stand for what is right and let Albert Lea shine, shine as a city of inclusiveness that welcomes diversity.&uot;

Freshour, born and raised in the Tampa, Fla. area, told how racial intolerance was a part of everyday life when he was young &045; there were segregated water fountains and bus seats, and violence against blacks and whites who were close to blacks.

&uot;If you are silent, you are the part of it,&uot; Freshour said. News about the civil rights movement and his encounter with faith urged him to resist the values that had been surrounding him. &uot;I found what is right for me, what is right that I believe to be true from the teachings of Jesus Christ.&uot;

&uot;History always repeats itself when it’s forgotten. That’s why Martin Luther King Day is so important,&uot; Freshour said. &uot;Unless people continue to speak out and hold people accountable, we will repeat history once again. It might not be black slavery, or it might not be the Jewish Holocaust. But in some way, it will raise its ugly head again.&uot;