The State of Iowa held its annual Martin Luther King Junior Day celebration this morning, honoring the slain civil rights leader at the State Historical Building. The celebration featured singing, a proclamation signed by Governor Chet Culver, and the keynote address by Abraham Funchess, the administrator of the Iowa Commission on the Status of African Americans. Funchess, who is also a minister at the United Methodist Church in Waterloo, says everyone in the state needs to act on the teachings of King.
Funchess reminded the crowd that King encouraged brotherhood and sisterhood among all peoples, with King writing, "That everyone from the bass black, to the treble white is significant on God’s keyboard." Funchess says we can all work together to "break down the chords of discord and disunity in our community in order to make the world we live in a better place in which to live."
Funchess there are a couple of things he sees that specifically need to be addressed in the state. He says there’s a problem with the high number of African-Americans who are in Iowa’s prisons. Funchess says:"It make no sense to have just a small percent of African-Americans in the state but have an overwhelming population of African-Americans in the jail systems. There’s something wrong with that. It suggests that prejudice or racism or something else is on the loose. It’s imperative that we begin to pull those forces in, so that we can curb these things that’re wrong in our society."
And Funchess says the state needs to close the educational achievement gap between Iowa’s elementary students. Funchess Iowa needs to use every "strategy and stratagem that’s available to us" to "make things right between children of all colors and hues." Funchess says Iowans need to learn to tell the truth and not settle for what is politically expedient in dealing with these problems.
Funchess says if we want to honor Doctor King and all that he stood for, the very least we could do is learn how to engage in "truth telling" regardless of the political expediency. Funchess says King would not allow himself to be used for the purpose of political expediency, as he says King always fought for "the poor, the ostracized, the marginality."