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A Reflection Celebrating the Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the early 1960s, I was a little girl growing up in the coal fields of southern West Virginia, where my parents worked as teachers. My parents and I often drove to Virginia to visit my grandmother and to Nashville, TN to see my brother, who was a student at Fisk University. Several times on those trips, we had to pull over on the side of the road and use the “restroom” in the woods. The pristine woods were actually more sanitary than the disgustingly filthy restrooms designated “For Coloreds Only” at the gas stations. My mother often packed delicious meals for us to enjoy because we could not eat at the local restaurants (even the drive-in restaurants where you ate in your car) during our travel.

Filthy or no public restroom access, drinking from “For Coloreds Only” water fountains, being forced to sit in the balcony instead of the main floor of theaters, being made to swim in the public park pool in the morning so that it could be thoroughly chlorinated before the White children swam in the afternoon, are some of the examples of the indignities that I experienced before Martin Luther King, Jr. marched and civil rights laws were passed. It is significant that we pause as a nation and observe the birthday of one who courageously led a movement that demanded our country adhere to the words “all men are created equal.”

In the 1960s, the indignities of segregation was a way of life. At McCarty Memorial Christian Church in Los Angeles, we live out the mission of Dr. King daily by serving as a center for food justice and social justice programs.

I would like the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to celebrate this holiday by formulating and executing a transformative plan that deconstructs systemic racism in our communities. We can do it if we focus on “Moving Forward Together, Not One Step Back”.

Editor’s Note: Rev. Dr. Lisa Enders Tunstall is Co-Chair of the Pacific Southwest Region’s (PSWR) MLK Committee, which has been organizing PSWR’s annual MLK Jr. Celebration. This event will celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Sunday, January 21 at the Disciples Ministry Center in Fullerton, CA at 4PM. This year’s theme is “Moving Forward Together, Not One Step Back” based on Philippians 3:13-14 and will feature guest speaker Representative Justin J. Pearson, a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. Also included in the program is the presentation of this year’s “Disciple of the Year” award. Please note that this event will also be live streamed on PSWR’s YouTube page. For more information, visit: 


Rev. Dr. Lisa Enders Tunstall serves as the Associate Pastor of McCarty Memorial Christian Church, President of the PSWR African American Convocation, and recently completed her term as a board member of DSF.


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