By Steve Klamkin WPRO News
The recent police-involved deaths of black men in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York “have reminded us not only of how important Dr. King’s dream was, but how far from it we still are,” said the Rev. Dr. James Evans, Jr.
Rev. Evans spoke Monday to about 400 people at the Minister’s Alliance of Rhode Island annual M.L.K. Scholarship Breakfast at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston, pointed to the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. In both cases, grand juries refused to indict white police officers involved in the black mens’ deaths.
“The decision was defended by saying that it was legal, but if there’s one thing that Martin Luther King Junior understood it was that because something an action is legal, does not make it just,” said Rev. Evans.
He is associated with the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University, and was formerly President of the Colgate Rochester Divinity School / Bexley Hall / Crozer Theological Seminary.
“Martin Luther King Junior would have understood and supported our efforts to clear the air. We must clear the air so that we might all be able to breathe again,” he said, keying in to Eric Garner’s dying words, “I can’t breathe”, which has become a rallying cry among protestors calling for better police – community relations.
“We have not achieved Dr. King’s dream here in Rhode Island, because there are too many people suffering and too many families out of work and too many people of color who’ve been left behind,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo.
“But I’ll tell you this, we are up to that challenge and we will move this state forward in a way that leaves no one behind,” she said.
Senator Jack Reed, Mayors Alan Fung of Cranston, Jorge Elorza of Providence and James Diossa of Central Falls all offered greetings. Congressman David Cicilline used the opportunity to call for a restoration of the Voting Rights Act, after the Supreme Court ruling in 2013 allowed states to change election laws without federal approval.
Several speakers also remembered the late Sister Ann Keefe, who campaigned tirelessly for the poor and disadvantaged, and who died Sunday of brain cancer at age 62.