Creating #MLK50Awake

Beginning A Jubilee Year of Truth and Transformation

April 4, 2017 to April 4, 2018

This Letter of Invitation is signed by a strong Planning Committee. (See the list of signers below the Letter.)

Dear friends —

April 4, 2018, will be the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This coming April 4, 2017, will be the 50th anniversary of his prophetic sermon “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” to Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam, at Riverside Church in New York. So we invite you to join wih us —

#MLK50Awake – Clergy, Laity, & Seekers Concerned about America

The 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” Speech

April 4, 2017

New York Ave. Presbyterian Church, Washington DC, 12:30 -5 pm

(New York Avenue & 13th St NW)

Vigil at White House, 5-6:30

 April 4, 2017, will be the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s prophetic sermon “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” to Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam, at Riverside Church in New York.  During the last year of his life, he struggled in the midst of war and governmental abandonment of the poor to create new multiracial, multi-religious coalitions to move toward the “Beloved Community.”

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. . . . . When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. … We are confronted by the fierce urgency of Now.”

Today we see extraordinary efforts to subjugate the poor, the Black, the Brown, religious minorities, immigrants, women, those who identify as LGBTQ, those who need medical care, the press, the working & middle class, & Mother Earth.

Please join clergy and laity and all who see themselves as religious, spiritual, or ethical seekers who are concerned about America in this present crisis, for a day of reflection on Dr. King’s message. We will gather at 12:30 (PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN LUNCH) and begin with an intergenerational and interfaith conversation about our current crisis among Sister Simone Campbell (“Nuns on the Bus”); Rabbi David Sapersten (former dir, Religious Action Ctr); Imam Talib Shareef (Masjid Muhammad); Rev Anthony Grimes (Fellowship of Reconciliation & Black Lives Matter); led by Rev. Aundreia Alexander (associate general secretary, National Council of Churches).

 Workshops and teach-ins on the triplets of racism, materialism and militarism will follow.

The day will culminate with a Multireligious Call to Prayerful Action, inspiring talks by Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Bishop Dwayne Royster (Political Director, PICO National Network), and Congressman Jamie Raskin — sending the community forth at 5 pm on a March to the White House where we will hold a Vigil till 6:30.

Please register here so that we can account for workshop space.


In that spirit, and in the midst of a political, cultural, and moral crisis even deeper than the one Dr. King addressed, when the urgency of Now is even fiercer, work is now under way to make the year from April 4, 2017, to April 4, 2018, an American Jubilee Year of Truth and Transformation — through action as well as emotional and spiritual reflection and repentance. The religious communities of America are crucial to that transformative work, just as they were when Dr. King spoke.

Actions to begin the year:

  1. At there is a free-standing Website with a treasury of information – the April 4 sermon itself as text and tape recording; several excerpts with a “What now?” focus; a number of comments on its origins and its meaning for today; and a growing number of reports on actions planned for this Year of Truth and Transformation and toolkits for your own action.

Please consult this website now and often. It is constantly updated.

  1. During the weekend of Friday March 31 to Sunday April 2, or on April 4 itself   — everywhere in the US churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, schools, libraries, colleges, labor unions, workplaces, and other community organizations could hold readings or video-viewings of  Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” sermon. Use <> as a resource.
  1. On April 4 itself,  there will be the gathering noted above at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC.

This gathering will be the kick-off for the Jubilee Year of Truth and Transformation.

As the year unfolds, each of us will consider how best we may encourage our communities to draw on the wisdom and courage of Dr. King to address the issues of our generation. Meanwhile, we suggest that through the year, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other community-rooted groups around the country could explore the following possible approaches:

  • They might hold monthly religious services, study groups, and teach-ins to draw on Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” sermon, in order to work for the religious and spiritual transformation of America beyond racism, militarism, materialism, and sexism. Each month, they might connect a brief passage or meme from Dr. King’s sermon with an action to embody that thought.
  • They might organize in several different ways: for example,  teach-ins or freedom schools; nonviolent actions that directly challenge centers of egregious violence and oppression; and grassroots models that actually embody in the living present our vision of the kinds of future institutions (such as neighborhood solar-energy co-ops, neighborhood cultural festivals, credit unions, food co-ops, etc.) that Dr. King called the Beloved Community.
  • They might plan  to end the year on April 4, 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s death, with a National Day of Action, Atonement and At-ONE-ment, together with special religious services and a myriad actions around the country to move past the “deadly triplets/ quadruplets” of racism, militarism, materialism, and sexism.

Such a day would address the deep crisis of American democracy with an outpouring of democratic energy.

Thanks! —

Planning Committee for #MLK50Awake

 Rev. Aundreia Alexander, associate general secretary, National Council of Churches

Christine Ashley, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Cherie Brown, director, National Coalition-Building Institute

Sister Simone Campbell , Executive Director, NETWORK (“Nuns on the Bus”)

Rev. Dr. Terence Ellen (Unitarian Universalist), Interfaith Moral Action on Climate

Rev. Richard Fernandez, (In 1967) executive director, Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam

Rev. Roger Gench, New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Washington, DC

Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director, Office of Public Witness, Presbyterian Church USA

Rev. Mike Neuroth, Washington Office, United Church of Christ  

Michael Newheart, Friends Yearly Meeting, Adelphi MD

Jacqueline Patterson, Director, Environmental Justice, NAACP

Bishop Dwayne Royster, political director, PICO National Network

Rabbi Gerry Serotta, executive director, InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington

Imam Talib Shareef, Masjid Muhammad, Washington, DC

Rabbi David Shneyer, Am Kolel, Rockville MD

Sharon Stout, Friends Meeting, Adelphi MD

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center

(Institutions listed for identification only)