Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Jr. & The Riverside Church Invite You to a Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.

Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Jr. & The Riverside Church

Cordially Invite You to

A Celebration of

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


With Featured Speakers

Martin Luther King, III

Co-Founder, Drum Major Institute


Rev. Michael A. Walrond, Jr.

The program will also feature The Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary and a special performance of “Let Justice Roll” by Mark Miller, accompanied by a mass choir including members of The Riverside Inspirational Choir and the Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble.

Sunday, January 19th, 2014


The Riverside Church
490 Riverside Drive
New York City


Click here for a PDF of the invitation

Statement from Martin Luther King III on Inauguration and the King Holiday

It is a happy coincidence of history that once every four years, the celebration of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., coincides with the inauguration of a new president. As presidents take the oath of office, they look out across the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial, and, from this year forward, do so under my father’s watchful gaze from the new MLK Memorial. To paraphrase Lincoln, this is altogether fitting and proper.

As the recent movie Lincoln reminds us, the 12th President gave his life in the successful fight for the 13th Amendment, prohibiting slavery. But, as Lincoln knew, that was only the beginning, not the end, of the struggle. That’s why the 13th Amendment was soon joined by the 14th, granting equality before the law, and the 15th, guaranteeing the right to vote. Lincoln and the other Framers of our “second Constitution” understood that the right to vote is the capstone on the march to freedom and quality – the right that guarantees all others. And that is also why my father understood voting rights to be the most important element of our struggles for civil rights and economic justice. Any president who takes office, on that great day when we celebrate our democracy, will have the eyes of Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., fixed squarely upon him – or her.

As President Obama takes the oath on Monday, can he return that gaze knowing that he has done everything he could to advance the right to vote for which Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King both gave their lives? President Obama was re-elected amidst the most concerted effort in a generation to suppress voting rights and to restrict the franchise. On the very night of his re-election, he began his address to the American people by noting the voting irregularities, long lines, discouragement, and barriers that had marred that day’s exercise of the national rite that, like no other, both embodies and displays our nation’s greatness. He declared then and there that we need to “fix” those problems.

As we renew our great democracy once again on this King Holiday Weekend, I pray that President Obama renews the push to expand, rather than contract, access to the ballot box that lies at the heart of that democracy. Abraham and Martin will not be the only ones watching.





ATLANTA, GA (August 6th) – On the anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, civil rights icon, former Mayor, Congressman and Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew J. Young sends an open letter to America.

“I’m writing to business leaders, religious leaders, and political leaders of all parties on removing unreasonable barriers to voting and making voting more accessible to all. It’s time to reunite the Coalition of Conscious and end the silence of good people,” said Andrew Young.

President Johnson said in his State of the Union in 1965 he would “eliminate every remaining obstacle to the right and the opportunity to vote” and on August 6th he and the rest of America thought he had done just that when the Voting Rights Act was signed. Sadly, forty-seven years later turnout in America continues to decline and the path to the voting booth is only getting harder not easier. Indeed, the profound words of President Johnson still ring true today: “the denial of the right to vote is a deadly wrong.”

Young is joined by Martin Luther King III in calling upon our nation’s leaders to remember the courage and commitment of President Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King by once again making it easier for everyone to take that crucial step into one place where all Americans are truly equal: the voting booth. This faith based grass roots campaign has set August 6, 2013 as the date by which a new voting rights act is enacted, what Young calls the VRA 2.0.

In the letter, Young says “So I call upon all of you today to join me in a new march on Washington; a march that will serve to end the silence of good people by putting voice back into an upgraded Voting Rights Act, what I call ‘VRA 2.0’ to remove unreasonable barriers to voting and to make voting more accessible to all; a march that will remind everyone that when great men of courage of commitment put the moral issues of society ahead of the political issues of party, America can once again be the beautiful beacon of democracy that it always was.”

Full letter follows.

From The Desk of Ambassador Andrew J. Young

August 6, 2012

My Dear Fellow American,

Forty-seven years ago today, my friend, Dr. Martin Luther King stood beside President Johnson as he signed the Voting Rights Act and proclaimed that America had “once and for all opened the doors to the polling places…and the wondrous rewards which await the wise use of the ballot.” On that day, partisanship took a back seat to citizenship, as a moral effort of historic proportion led to legislation, which we all believed would give all Americans unfettered access to what President Johnson called “the most powerful instrument ever devised by man.”

Sadly, today we confront the shameful reality that forty-seven years later, voter turnout in American ranks 139th out of 172 democracies around the globe and dead last amongst the G8. Another horrifying reality is that this presidential election cycle will be the most expensive and excessive in world history, as billions of dollars will be deployed through conventional donations and non-transparent Super PACs.

With the tidal wave of money being spent by candidates and their Super PACs on negative ads, apathy among citizens is growing as the average person no longer believes his or her vote really matters. Ironically, not one ad talks about how to upgrade our antiquated voting system even though both presidential candidates and so many others acknowledge…that the system is broken.

When asked in 1965 why it took America so long to make the voting booth accessible to all Americans, Martin said it was due to the silence of good people. Sadly, that silence has once again become deafening as the ever-growing barriers to the ballot box in America is a global embarrassment.

So I call upon all of you today to join me in a new march on Washington; a march that will serve to end the silence of good people by putting voice back into an upgraded Voting Rights Act, what I call “VRA 2.0” to remove unreasonable barriers to voting and to make voting more accessible to all; a march that will remind everyone that when great men of courage of commitment put the moral issues of society ahead of the political issues of party, America can once again be the beautiful beacon of democracy that it always was.

God bless you,
Andy Young

Brown University Grad Students Join Forces With DMI

A September lecture at the Brown University Taubman Center by Eric Schnurer, president of the Drum Major Institute, led to collaboration between three Taubman Center Master’s students and the Institute. The Drum Major Institute is a progressive think tank that seeks to end poverty and promote opportunity by putting sound policy ideas to work.

Alison Segal MPP ’12, Christopher Collins MPP ’12 and Alan Glazer MPA ’12 presented their policy paper for the Institute, “Workforce Leadership Development in Appalachian Kentucky” to peers and faculty at the Center on May 15. Before the students began, Schnurer met with local and federal agencies in Kentucky and identified what the region lacked above all — a critical mass of local leaders and entrepreneurs who are prepared to tackle the economic, social, and infrastructure problems that have kept Appalachian Kentucky mired in poverty for decades.

Segal, Collins and Glazer came up with a framework for two programs to solve the shortage of leadership in the region. The first would be a crash course for civic leaders. Their training would include instruction in mentoring, civic engagement, budgeting, ethics, government processes, grant writing and project management. The second program would help existing business owners. These prospective entrepreneurial leaders would receive training on growing their businesses, improving efficiency, cash flow planning and advanced marketing.

The students’ recommendations, which they consider a work in progress, are currently under review by Schnurer and their community partners in Kentucky. Segal, Collins and Glazer, who graduated this May, are hoping to recruit a new group of Taubman Master’s students to carry their work forward.

Martin Luther King III’s Remarks at John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Thank you President Travis,

Thank you to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for hosting this important event.

And thank you to the Drum Major Institute for putting this event together and for continuing the work of the civil rights movement here in New York City.

IN December of 1964, my father was awarded New York City’s Medallion of Honor by Mayor Robert Wagner.

My father had just returned from Oslo with the Nobel Peace Prize, and on the day he was awarded the Medallion by your great city, my father was given another truly special gift: he was made an honorary New Yorker.

Mayor Wagner said, “This is not the city of your residence, Dr. King, but it is your city nevertheless… We claim you henceforth, as an honorary New Yorker.”

Mayor Wagner also said, “We welcome you, Dr. King, as you return to your mission to help all of us finish the unfinished business of democracy.”

And this is what I want to speak to you about today: finishing the unfinished business of our democracy.

The Civil Rights Movement achieved so much—segregation, the vote.

And yet, when we consider the state of our communities of color today, it becomes blaringly obvious just how unfinished our democracy is.

When children of color are four times as likely to be born into poverty than a white child, we know we have a lot farther to go.

When the unemployment rates for black New Yorkers is twice as high as that of white New Yorkers, we have a lot farther to go.

There is disparity in income, disparity in poverty, and disparity in hope.

When communities of color all across the nation are plagued by violence—black Americans make up half of all murder victims—we need to finish this unfinished business.

When one in nine young black men is currently incarcerated in jail or prison, we have a lot farther to go.

And this brings us to the subject of today’s panel: Crime and Justice and New York City’s stop and frisk policy.

When crime is reduced, those that benefit the most are our communities of color.

This is why the last time I was in New York, I met with Mayor Bloomberg to talk about the serious issue of getting guns off the streets of our cities and towns.

I support Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to close loopholes that allow illegal guns to flood our streets, and result in needless violence and murder.

But it becomes difficult to support the NYPD’s current policy of stop and frisk. The numbers are just staggering: over 600,000 stops last year.

With this many stops, a New Yorker of color is stopped by a New York police officer at a rate of once every minute. Once every minute.

WE are required to stop what we are doing and ask some hard questions about the impact this practice has on New York’s communities.

When a person is stopped, it is supposed to because there is a reasonable suspicion that that person is committing a crime, is about to commit a crime, or has committed a crime.

So once every minute, a New York police officer accuses a person of color of committing a crime or intending to commit a crime.

Just what kind of impact do you think that has on our communities?

Most often, there is no arrest, no ticket, no crime.

Sometimes the person is frisked, and sometimes the police use physical force.

Through peaceful, non-violent protest, my father and those brave Americans like Rosa Parks allowed other to see it through their eyes, to see the injustice and to feel it just as keenly.

For most New Yorkers, you will never feel what it is like to be stopped, to basically be accused of a crime, to feel the indignity.

For those of you who have never been stopped, I want you to take a moment to consider how it must feel.

Here is how one black young man, a college student in New York City, described one encounter in the New York Times.

This young man was sitting on a public bench with two friends:

“We were talking, watching the night go by, enjoying the evening when suddenly, and out of nowhere, squad cars surrounded us. A policeman yelled from the window, “Get on the ground!”
“I was stunned. And I was scared. Then I was on the ground — with a gun pointed at me.”

Like most who are stopped, this young man was found to be innocent of any crime.

Like I said, one New Yorker of color is stopped every minute. Incidents like these are occurring at an alarming rate.

Even if we were to set aside race, we must ask hard questions about the state of our democracy and the value of our civil rights in light of this practice of stop and frisk.

These are hard questions because our safety is so valuable and violence so reprehensible. The NYPD has fought hard to keep New York City safe, and their lives are constantly in danger.

Just as we must see the issue of stop and frisk through the eyes of those who have been stopped, we must also look through the eyes of the men and women who put their lives at risk keeping this city and cities across the US safe.

That is why I am eager to hear the perspectives of the New York Police Department today in this important dialogue.

I want to thank the NYPD for agreeing to participate today.

I also look forward to hearing the expertise of the accomplished members of John Jay’s faculty that have joined us today.

I also want to thank Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer for his commitment to this issue of stop and frisk and for raising some very important questions about this controversial topic. I want to thank him for agreeing to participate in our discussion today.

And finally, thanks again to President Jeremy Travis for hosting this event at John Jay.

My father said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

He also said, “Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.”

And as we consider this issue—stop and frisk—I want to conclude with this question: “Is it right?”