Martin Luther King III was delayed by weather, planes and a helicopter, but the words he delivered on the Embassy Theatre stage Wednesday were a fiery call to action.
“Make it (this nation) the place it needs to be,” he said from the same podium where his father, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., stood 56 years ago when he visited Fort Wayne.
The nation was never that great, he said.
“Well, maybe for some of you,” he said, as he addressed the black and white crowd who'd been waiting to hear him speak since 7 p.m. He didn't arrive at the Embassy until after 10 p.m. The Rev. Bill McGill told the audience King's flight was delayed because of weather and at one point King had to take a helicopter to continue his trip.
Change will come through elections, King said, and he challenged people to make that change through a vote. “And some of us don't vote,” he said.
King was the featured speaker at the event organized by McGill, pastor at the Imani Baptist Temple. The near capacity crowd at the Embassy came to honor the time when his father spoke in Fort Wayne, June 5, 1963 at what was then the Scottish Rite Auditorium (now the University of Saint Francis Performing Arts Center) and to enjoy the voices and music of two nationally known gospel singers, Tramaine Hawkins and Yolanda Adams.
Many in the audience sang along with the singers and didn't seem to mind the wait. McGill also brought up Malaika Ahmed, a Purdue Fort Wayne student and the youth coordinator for the Universal Education Foundation, a Muslim organization, to read a poem entitled “Appreciate.”
G.H. Thurman and his wife, Annie, said they came to the Embassy in an act of appreciation. G.H. Thurman said the appearance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s son meant a lot to him.
“I followed his dad all the way through,” he said.
Sister Anita Holzmer, representing the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration at University of Saint Francis, nearly wept as she told the story of two nuns from her order who prayed over King when he was taken to the Catholic hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, the night he was assassinated in 1968.
“They're still living to tell their experience,” she said.
Even though King's speech was cut short because of the late night, he was able to keep his appearance at Grand Wayne Center where there had been a special event planned prior to the Embassy event, McGill said.
Today at 8:30 a.m. he will place a wreath at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge.