Wheatley High School alum, Rev. Eric Wilson Sr., pastor of Spring Antioch Baptist Church, and child of the 1950s and 60s, views the work and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as invaluable yet very much in danger.

“MLK’s legacy is priceless, bedrock, foundational, and in my opinion, tremendously abandoned,” said Wilson. “I’m a child of the fifties, so, my whole foundational development had King in the middle of it. And, of course, that was saturated with Christian values, with moral values, with economic values. I consider it priceless. You can’t buy it.”

Wilson was a 17-year-old Wheatley junior when King was assassinated. Up to that point, his entire educational experience had been segregated. So, MLK’s morals-based movement and push for integration was personal for Wilson.

“When Dr. King was assassinated, our whole community just galvanized, came together, and realized that we couldn’t stop. We had to keep going. But at that point, we had been equipped. I got 17 years of these values downloaded in me,” he said.

Today, as a pastor, Wilson is leading his congregation to transmit King’s values into a new generation.

“We’re very strong on Christian values: faith, forgiveness, unconditional love, sacrifice, fellowship, friendship, family. These are core principles that we at Spring Antioch are always promoting,” said Wilson.

Wilson said because “the whole church community was dismantled by COVID,” his congregation’s 2022 theme was “Reconstruction,” focusing their energy on rebuilding, and keeping King’s Christian values front and center as they continue the work into this new year.

“Our theme for 2023 is “Reconstruction 2.0.” I wanted to make sure I was relevant to the young adult crowd and their children, because that’s who’s really at risk right now; our young people—young adults and their children.”

Wilson said the Christian values King promoted infected a generation, and that it is on him, his congregation and others to pass those values on to young people.

“That’s what we’re doing in Spring Antioch.”

Here’s what other local congregations are doing to keep the work and legacy of MLK alive:

DR. TIMOTHY W. SLOAN, SENIOR PASTOR, THE LUKE CHURCH

“As an alum of Morehouse College, continuing Dr. King’s work is extremely important to me and The Luke Church (2380 S. Houston Avenue; Humble, TX 77396),” said Sloan. “Dr. King believed deeply that the church played a crucial and prophetic role in racial reconciliation. The church has a responsibility to address the evils of racism.”

To that end, for over a year, The Luke Church has partnered with Kingwood Christian Church in Kingwood, a predominantly white congregation, in an effort entitled “Be the Bridge.”

“Approximately thirty individuals selected from each congregation have met monthly, alternating locations, to openly discuss racism and its present-day evils. It follows the model of a national program developed by Latarsha Morrison to respond to racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world. The effort has increased awareness and a commitment to addressing racism in the northeast part of the greater Houston area. The project’s success is primarily due to the pastoral cooperation of Dr. Sloan at The Luke and Pastor Chad Mattingly of Kingwood Christian,” said Sloan, who also listed the church’s bi-annual “Black Business Expo Sunday,” Economic Empowerment and Social Justice ministries and the “Sloan STEM Summer Camp” founded by his wife, Sonya Sloan, M.D., as additional ways The Luke Church seeks to continue MLK’s work.

REV. RAY MACKEY, EVANGELISM PASTOR, GREATER GALILEE CHURCH

Reverend Ray Mackey, who also serves as founding and executive pastor of Higher Impact Ministries (H.I.M.), lives by the MLK quote that’s framed in his office: “Everybody can be great, because everyone can serve. You only need a heart full of grace.”

“Injustices remain ever prevalent in our society for far too many,” said Mackey. “We must collectively focus on pathways to continue carrying the light of equality.”

Mackey seeks to continue MLK’s work via his “Lifting through Literacy” initiative that seeks to empower families with children by expanding access to literacy resources.  This work is fueled by one of Mackey’s fundamental beliefs reflected in the scripture Ecclesiastes 7:12 “the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.” 

Mackey founded the “Lifting through Literacy” Initiative in 2015 as a pilot program in HISD with support from Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation Chairman Neil Bush. This ministry expanded to serve youth in additional school districts, early childhood centers, non-profits and churches. The initiative received national attention when partnering with Washington D.C.-based Footsteps2Brillance, a leader in Early Childhood literacy that impacts thousands of youth and families around the nation and across the globe.

DR. DZ COFIELD, SENIOR PASTOR, GOOD HOPE MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH

“Throughout Dr. King’s career, he talked about the need to have a church to be more than a Sunday gathering of good people, but rather a group of people who embody love in action for all people, a church that has a faith that manifests itself in word and deed, putting faith into action,” said Cofield, host of KTSU’s “Real World, Real Talk.”

Cofield shared the following Good Hope initiatives that embody MLK’s work.

Racial Reconciliation Conversations

Shortly after the death of our friend George Floyd, I prayerfully participated in meaningful dialogue with faith leaders of other races and ethnic groups to talk about racial tension in our country. Those conversations helped to humanize the ongoing struggle for true equality for people who otherwise would never know what it is to be Black in America. While very challenging, those conversations were helpful to build bridges across racial lines, a necessity if the local church is going to truly represent the Universal Church accurately.

Hope For Families/Good Hope MBC Food Pantry

Dr. King devoted a tremendous amount of his work to the poor and working poor. The ability to go beyond the four walls of the church and into the community is what makes ministry real. We are committed to fighting poverty in all forms, including generational and situational poverty. For example, our food pantry distributes over one million pounds of food a year. Our participation in addressing food insecurities is rooted in a belief that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves. 

Project Hope Diversionary Program

There is no greater threat to our young people than the school-to-prison pipeline. Sadly, that pipeline often starts in our very own communities. By engaging family, youth and other community stakeholders, Project Hope is investing in tomorrow today. That investment starts with encouraging our children to be their best and their brightest. King believed in the children back then, and we believe in our children and their families now.

Hope To The World – Missions & Outreach Ministry

We have planted 4 local churches out of our congregation, supported 2 other church planters, commissioned 2 full-time missionaries to Africa and support mission organizations in the Caribbean and Africa. Hope to The World encourages, equips, and empowers people to be “World-Class Christians” by embracing God’s heart for the world. 

Legal Aid and Social Justice Ministry

After almost 20 years we continue to advocate for people in need of assistance when facing a criminal justice system replete with systemic disparities and an educational system that has historically under-educated our children, leaving them virtually unemployable at graduation and unprepared for a viable post-secondary educational opportunity. We are committed to defending the poor, standing with those who need support and fighting for those who stand against the powerful and the heartless.

KALONGI EJIKE, SENIOR PASTOR, THE SHRINE

“Dr. King was the embodiment of faith, and his work will forever be a beautiful symbol of self-determination in the history book of humanity,” said Ejike. “When we reflect on his work, Dr. King magically appears ageless, because even in his youth, his wisdom and faith, time travels throughout the universe and speaks to our spirit: that balance, fairness, love and communal cooperation are and will forever be the promised land of humanity. King was a judge, a prophet, a Black Messiah who demonstrated that individualism is death and community is life. The Pan-African Orthodox Christian Church (The Shrine) continues the work of Dr. King by preaching, teaching and practicing self-determination. We promote a wisdom that teaches “Salvation is a Group Experience.” And as an institution within our community, we pool our resources to render aid, encouragement and faith to all who believe this Wisdom.”

Ejike listed the following local and national initiatives of the Shrine as examples of honoring the legacy of MLK today:

Buy Black Marketplace

The Buy Black Friday Marketplace at the Shrine Cultural & Events Center provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs and consumers to gather together to support and celebrate Black businesses every first and third Saturday of the month. Though rarely discussed during annual MLK Day celebrations, economic equity and empowerment were high on MLK’s agenda of issues to confront for the betterment of Blacks people and the nation. The But Black Marketplace was actually born out of the desires of the community to have some vehicle beyond protest marches to fight for social justice; serving as a vehicle of community empowerment that allows participants to vote with their dollars to steer money away from traditional stores and into Black businesses.

We Are One Mobile Food Pantry

The We Are One Mobile Food Pantry, an initiative led by Richard Andrews, founder of the Foundation for Black Heritage and Culture, is hosted by the Shrine every Saturday, is an effort to provide to “the least of these” as MLK did throughout his ministry efforts. This food giveaway effort serves over 450 families per week and does its part to push back on Houston-area food insecurity.

Enlightenment Classes

Operating on the belief that guided MLK, that there can be no changed world without changed people, the Shrine offers a bevy of classes, workshops, guest speakers and conferences designed to enlighten and wake Black people up to their glorious history and divine right to power.

Collaborative Initiatives

Just as MLK and his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) collaborated with several organizations and institutions during the 1960s around a common cause, the Shrine does the same as a member of the city’s Operation Unity and Citywide Kwanzaa Committee. The Shrine also opens its Cultural Center doors to countless churches and organizations so they have a place to run their programs.

Beulah Land Farm Project

A large part of the Shrine’s efforts at economic empowerment is the Beulah Land Farm Project, the 4,000-plus acres of land owned by the church in Calhoun Falls, SC. During the final two years of his life, MLK shared words of support for proponents of Black Power and encouraged Black people to support Black-owned businesses. Beulah Land is an extension of that idea, and is viewed by the Shrine, not as the Shrine’s self-determination example, but all of Black people’s opportunity for empowerment.

Aswad Walker

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...