The morning before the 50th anniversary of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination, an interfaith group of religious leaders and followers will board a charter bus in Dallas and set off for a road trip through the south.
One of the organizers, Reverend Dr. Michael Waters, Pastor of Joy Tabernacle A.M.E. Church in Dallas, says the trip is a call to reignite MLK’s legacy of tackling poverty and racism.
“The American Civil Rights movement was a multifaith movement. It was Muslims, Jews and Christians working for change in America and I believe we have that same opportunity today,” said Waters.
Waters will be joined by faith leaders in North Texas who make up Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square.
The group formed in 2015 and has lead the city in prayer, notably after the July 7th, 2016, ambush of police officers in downtown Dallas. The group has also taken on social and political issues, supporting a DREAM act for DACA recipients and pushing for Dallas to take down a Confederate Monument in Pioneer Cemetery.
This week’s pilgrimage to retrace Dr. King’s historic steps through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee begins on Tuesday with people of all religions and walks of life.
“It’s a very diverse group,” said Waters. “You have millennials, you have baby boomers, active and retired pastors, a few lay persons, people from south Dallas, from north Dallas, from suburbs who will experience this together.”
Alia Salem, President and CEO of the non-profit group FACE, says her Muslim faith calls on her to be part of the show of solidarity.
“We are called by God to do this work in a way that benefits the whole community,” said Salem. "If we do that in a vacuum absent of our neighbors who are from other faith traditions, we won’t have the collective impact and the power to actually see positive social change.”
Waters says the work of Faith Forward must continue to tackle economic inequality in North Texas.
“Just look outside your window, look across the Trinity River,” said Waters. “There's much work to be done in that vein to really become one city.”
Work that, he says, must be informed by the people who came before and took great risks to create change.
“We pick up the mantle of the Poor People’s Campaign. That is what Dr. King was working towards when an assassin’s bullet felled him and that’s our responsibility today,” said Waters. “We pick it up and we advance it forward.”
“Just as our ancestors stood up against great oppression and changed the world, we have that same opportunity,” Waters added. “My hope is that we will see ourselves in them, lay claim to their courage, make it our own and move forth in the name of peace and justice today.”