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Minister says King's dream still distant

January 23, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Rev. Douglas B. Sands, keynote speaker at Sunday night's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Banquet, told an audience of more than 300 that America has yet to realize the fulfillment of the slain civil rights leader's dream of harmony by the end of the 20th century.

"He believed that by now things would be so much different than they are," Sands said. His speech touched on King's ability and his special gift of being able to live among all people. "He believed that God is the god of moral law and that there must be justice for all people," Sands said.

Sands said he was among the thousands who marched on Washington in the summer of 1968 and helped to build Resurrection City, the tent city set up by the marchers near the Reflecting Pool between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

While blacks were protesting various agencies, the federal government moved in with bulldozers and demolished the temporary living quarters, Sands said. "Because of our failure, Martin Luther King's dream died in the mud of Resurrection City."

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Sands also told of his journey to Washington that summer. His entourage ended up in a small Georgia town called Social Circle. His group of about a dozen people somehow got separated from the main group and found their way blocked by a tough-looking mob. "We sat down, closed our eyes and prayed for a miracle," he said. They sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic, one of King's favorites. "We were alone and in trouble," he said.

Students in a nearby white elementary school saw the plight of the group. They came out of their school and ran toward them, their teachers following in pursuit, he said. "They gave us their lunch, but they really came out to protect us," he said.

Sands is pastor of the Simpson-Hamline United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Howard University Divinity School in 1988 and has served many churches as pastor.

Among his accomplishments are the founding of such groups as Volunteers in Christian Evangelism, the Institute on Racism and the Church, Non-Violence NOW and AFRICAID. He also served as a field representative with the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

W.Va. Del. Arley Johnson, D-Cabell, another minister known for his oratory skills, recited King's famous "Dream" speech.

King gave the speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the summer of 1963.

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