For the Rev. Bill McGill, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. still represent a dream and not the reality of everyday life in America.
Saturday, McGill delivered the “I Have A Dream” address King gave 58 years ago in front of a crowd of more than 250,000 people in Washington, D.C.
“This was a seminal moment in America,” McGill said before he took to his microphone on a small hill off Fourth Street, overlooking the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge downtown. “So many of Dr. King’s words still resonate today.”
There were few people in attendance and that was the way McGill wanted it, he said. Instead, he livestreamed the address so people could stay out of the extreme heat and stay safe during the ongoing pandemic. Off-mic, McGill wore a mask.
When King visited Fort Wayne in 1963, at the invitation of local clergy including Dr. John Meister of First Presbyterian Church, he said “Fort Wayne was like the Up South,” McGill said. “In other words, it wasn’t that much different from the South.”
“There are still quadrants of our city in pain,” he added.
Larry Wheeler of Fort Wayne came to hear McGill and then met him for the first time, staying to take a selfie with him.
“I’m a great follower of Dr. King,” Wheeler said. “My mother walked in one of his marches. I had to follow his dream to follow my own dream.”
Blossie Williams also attended McGill’s interpretation and recalled she was 17 years old and living in New York that summer when she witnessed King on television.
“I worked in the cotton fields,” said Williams, originally from Alabama. “My mom was a maid. She wasn’t good enough to sit in the front seat (of the bus) but she had to go and cook the food for the white people. They trusted her to cook their food.”
Williams added that while there has been some positive change in the 58 years, it’s “not a whole lot.”
McGill said the speech re-energizes the civil rights movement. “This can just be a reminder,” he said.