By Francesca Norsen Tate
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Plymouth Church marks the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit with a community forum that continues the landmark church’s commitment to freedom and human rights.
Plymouth Church’s role the Underground Railroad, fighting in the Civil War, and advocating for human rights and universal suffrage prompted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to accept an invitation to speak at the church on Feb 10, 1963, the date of its dedication as a National Historic Landmark.
Fifty years after Dr. King’s address at Plymouth—and 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation—Plymouth challenges the community to consider what can be learned about the struggle for freedom in America? How can each person take action to stem the growing tide of human trafficking and modern-day slavery, not just across the world but right here in Brooklyn?
Next Saturday, Feb. 9, Plymouth Church continues the conversation on modern-day slavery with a special community forum, “50 YEARS AFTER MARTIN LUTHER KING AT PLYMOUTH: Listening to The Past in The Fight Against Slavery and Human Trafficking Today. The forum includes a recording of Dr. King’s sermon at Plymouth Church.
The forum begins at 10 a.m. with a screening of “Slavery and the Law,” a documentary that the Kings County (Brooklyn) District Attorney’s Office produced in 2011 to address the need for updated educational materials on the history of slavery and the fight for freedom. The film follows a group of Brooklyn youth as they work to create a wall mural that commemorates the shift from enslavement to the Civil Rights Movement. As “Slavery and the Law” sets out to chronicle the nation’s struggles to transform the law and create a more just society, it moves beyond its original purpose as a teaching tool and delivers a multi-layered, informative and uplifting film for all audiences. The documentary also features a segment that was filmed at Plymouth Church with Lois Rosebrooks, the church’s director of History Ministry Services.
After the screening, forum participants will have an opportunity to hear the original recording of Martin Luther King’s 1963 sermon at Plymouth. This speech, titled “The American Dream,” receives its first public airing at the forum. When Dr. King spoke to an overflowing crowd at Plymouth, he presented a forceful vision of a future where justice and equality had triumphed over hatred and racism. The country had not yet heard Dr. King’s rallying “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., and listeners at the forum will likely recognize some now familiar themes.
Following a noon lunch, the forum will reconvene at 1 p.m. for a presentation on slavery with Laura Neubauer, Executive Assistant District Attorney in Charge of Human Trafficking. District Attorney Charles J. Hynes will give the introduction.
This forum dovetails a symposium on human trafficking that Plymouth Church hosted last month.
Dr. King’s visit to Plymouth Church is celebrated through the weekend, and continues at the 11 a.m. Sunday worship service on February 10. Plymouth’s Senior Minister, the Rev. Dr. David C. Fisher, will preach. The Plymouth Choir, under the direction of Minister of Music Bruce Oelschlager, sings “Freedom Trilogy” by Paul Halley. This contemporary choral piece blends Gregorian chant, African folk music, and the hymn “Amazing Grace”—sequentially, then simultaneously—to create a powerful celebration of the human spirit and universal freedom. Composer Paul Halley is best known as a former member of the Paul Winter Consort and past Music Director at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
The Underground Thrift Store, Plymouth’s fundraising initiative, will also be open from 12:30-4 in the upper level of the Plymouth Gym (street entrance at 65 Hicks Street). Offering a boutique collection of gently used fashion and housewares, the Underground contributes 25 percent of its proceeds to organizations that support the fight against modern-day slavery and human trafficking.
The Saturday forum runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the Sunday worship begins at 11 a.m. on Feb. 10, the actual anniversary of Dr. King’s sermon. Admission to the forum is free and open to the community. Those planning to attend the lunch please note that advance reservations are required for the Lunch only. RSVP by Feb. 6 to Amy Talcott at the Plymouth Church Office,firstname.lastname@example.org, or 718-624-4743. Plymouth Church is at 57 Orange Street (between Hicks and Henry Streets) in Brooklyn Heights.