Our Time to Break Silence Returns May 1

By Lynne Hamer, PhD
Special to the Truth

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King is more than I Have a Dream. Given one year to the day before his assassination, Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence expressed his opposition to the Vietnam War and urged all people to unite to confront “the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism.”

The public is invited to attend a free presentation of Dr. King’s important speech on May 1 at 4:00 at Monroe Street Church, 3613 Monroe Street, Toledo (monroestreetchurch.org). Refreshments and a time for conversation will follow. The venue is accessible, with elevator and ramps, and organizers encourage all to wear masks according to their personal circumstances.

Representatives from over 25 organizations across Toledo and northwest Ohio will present the speech in a reader’s theater. For Hope Bland, PhD, director of Diversity Equity inclusion & Strategy – Lucas County Children Services, this will be the third time she will participate. This year, she will represent Lucas County Children’s Services. She is also on the planning committee for the event.

Bland notes, “This event is a reminder that it is not for us to stand by and watch history be made but to embrace the courage to fight for social justice for all humankind.  Bringing communities together in solidarity to continue to honor MLK for his monumental efforts to challenge social injustices only strengthens the path toward a more righteous and just world.”

Up until Beyond Vietnam, Dr. King was considered the most important civil rights leader, but his work was seen as specific to civil rights and limited to racism. With Beyond Vietnam, Dr. King made clear that he was a leader for human rights. He called for people across the globe and across all human groups and activities to unite.

Bill Hoover, PhD, retired UToledo history professor and member of the Monroe Street Church, is also part of the planning committee. He notes, “Although most people remember Martin Luther King for his role in civil rights, I feel it is important to recognize and honor his contributions to world peace.” Hoover will represent Toledo Sister Cities in the reading.

Needless to say, this speech shocked that era’s powers-that-be and motivated the masses across lines that had formerly divided groups. In our time of needless war and military proliferation, of surging white supremacy and hate, we must continue to recall & to act on his words.

This event has become a Toledo tradition. In 2017, organizers based at Monroe Street Church gathered leaders from all walks of life to present the speech locally. This event followed the lead of the National Council of Elders (www.nationalcouncilofelders.com) who asked that people across the nation mark the 50th anniversary of the speech by presenting it in their communities. They called on “schools, churches, civil rights groups, labor organizations, museums, community organizations, and others to join… in building this movement to break silence, promote dialogue and engage in nonviolent direct action.”

The 2020 and 2021 annual readings were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, after that pause, this is the fourth annual community reading of this inspirational speech. If you would like to participate in presenting the speech, call or text 419-283-8288 by Friday, April 29, and we will be happy to add you and your group into the line-up of local citizen-leaders.