The Rev. Dr. Walter L. Kimbrough, pastor of Columbia Drive United Methodist Church, presented the keynote address at Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast in Conyers. Kimbrough, who was appointed senior pastor of Columbia Drive UMC in 2012, is a native Atlantan who led Chicago congregations through racial transition. He returned to Atlanta in 1974 when he was appointed to Cascade Church. He retired from that pastorate in 2006 and came out of retirement to lead Columbia Drive UMC. Kimbrough also gave the invocation at the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting last Thursday. -- Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
CONYERS — The Rev. Walter L. Kimbrough challenged the audience at Monday morning’s Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast to “move beyond the speech” in order to be faithful to the life and legacy of the Civil Rights leader.
Kimbrough, who is pastor at Columbia Drive United Methodist Church in Atlanta, said two things are required of those who would “walk the walk” of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech — they must meet the needs of young people today and be faithful in taking care of older people.
Everyone is important, Kimbrough told the crowd of more than 100 who gathered at Longhorn Steakhouse in Conyers. Children in particular need to be told that they are important now — not for the future — and should be treated as such, he said.
“Be faithful in giving your children the best that we are and the best that we have now,” he said.
Kimbrough said it is important to engage with young people now, because the future is in their hands. He said King was an average student at Morehouse College, but he went on to do extraordinary things because he was encouraged there by Benjamin E. Mays.
Taking care of children will ensure that they are faithful to their elders, he said.
“When you raise them right, they won’t forget you; they’ll take care of you,” Kimbrough said.
As a youngster growing up in the Summerhill neighborhood of Atlanta, Kimbrough said he knew everyone by name — because he belonged. He didn’t realize until he was in college at Morehouse, taking an urban sociology class, that his neighborhood met the definition of a ghetto.
“You are not from the ’hood if you have neighbors,” he said, and admonished the audience not to say they are “from the ’hood,” because neighbors should not be subtracted from their lives.
Kimbrough encouraged the audience to focus on strengthening their own families.
“We have to strengthen our concept of family solidarity,” he said. “And all that your family is not, I want you to work intentionally hard at what God would have it be.
Kimbrough said in the Summerhill neighborhood, homelessness didn’t exist. “Everybody had family,” he said.
Even though there may not have been enough beds, there was always room for a pallet for someone who needed a place to sleep. He blamed greed and an unwillingness to share with others for the fact that many people have no place to live now. “How much is enough?” he asked.
Monday’s event was the ninth annual MLK breakfast sponsored by the Rockdale County chapter of the NAACP and the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce. Attendees also heard from Thua Barlay, chairman of the board of the Chamber; and Willie Gibson, president of the NAACP. George Levett Jr., Rockdale County coroner and pastor of Crawfordville Baptist Church, led the audience in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and Phillip Baker, pastor of Shady Grove Baptist Church, led the singing of “We Shall Overcome.” Pastor Billie Cox of Macedonia Baptist Church gave the invocation, and pastor Carolyn Carlisle of Pleasant Hill CME Church gave the benediction.
Proceeds from the breakfast will benefit the United Way in Rockdale County.