Need for racial, economic equality cited at MLK service

Release Date: January 19, 2016

OLEAN — Speakers honored the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday in a ceremony at the Lincoln Park gazebo.

Guest speaker, the Rev. Kim Rossi of St. Stephen’s Church, said, “In our time, perhaps no one has seen the true social dimension of God’s kingdom more than Martin Luther King Jr. King confronted racism with a clear word of gospel justice.

“The key, as he said in a number of his speeches, was a certain maladjustment. He said there are certain things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon all (people) of good will to be maladjusted.”
Rossi then quoted King himself.

“… I never did intend to adjust to the evils of segregation and discrimination,” he said. “I never did intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry. I never did intend to adjust myself to the economic conditions that will take necessities from the many and give luxuries to the few. I never did intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating effects of violence. And I call on all (people) of good will to be maladjusted because it may well be that the salvation of the world lies in the hands of the maladjusted.”

Rossi also described King’s dream and called upon those at the memorial to help create a tight-knit community.

One, he said, “where all God’s children are fully welcomed, where this is a community that respects the diversity and dignity for all people, helping the poorest of the poor, and helping this world to be a place where no child goes to bed hungry ever.”

Eric Talbot, a teacher at Cuba-Rushford Central School District, gave brief remarks at the beginning of the memorial service.

Also speaking was Kirk Laubenstein of the Coalition for Economic Justice, who described his organizing of fast food workers in the Buffalo area and pushing for a $15 per hour minimum wage.

He spoke about one young man working at a fast food outlet for $8.75 an hour, or about $15,000 a year, who could not afford diapers for his son. The young man then found trouble on the streets, he said.

“You turn to the street, and you end up in jail,” Laubenstein said. Paying a living wage would make it “so people don’t have to make that impossible choice,” he added.

One Olean Teachers Association representative told those gathered to let Gov. Andrew Cuomo know they are not satisfied with some of his policies. Deb Mueller of the New York State Nurses Association, which represents nurses at Olean General Hospital, said Obamacare has not fully fixed health care.

“There are still a lot of uninsured and underinsured,” she said, and the underinsured have trouble getting preventive care due to high deductibles and co-pays.

Also citing the importance of fair wages was Democratic congressional candidate John Plumb of Jamestown.

“Rural communities have been left behind for too long,” he said. There is “no simple solution,” but making sure everyone “gets a good education and a living wage” would go a long way toward fulfilling King’s dream, he added.

Plumb, a Randolph native living in Jamestown, quoted King as saying it was “criminal to work a full-time job for part-time pay.” Income inequality is increasing in the country, he said.

Plumb noted King challenged America to could imagine a country where race and religion didn’t matter.
“The arch of a moral compass is long, but it bends toward justice,” Plumb quoted King as saying.

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