Monday's 29th Annual Unity Day Celebration, sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Club, was a day of celebration and remembrance at the Grand Wayne Center.
Gospel music choirs and dancers from around the area took to the stage between speakers. They quickly had people clapping and dancing as they moved to the music.
The keynote speaker for the event, Carl B. Mack, 51, born in Jackson, Miss., the recently retired executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers, was there to remind people it was time to reestablish their commitment to the civil rights movement.
Speaking before he took the stage, Mack said he was going to take the approach King took in one of his speeches. He wanted to take the audience back into the history of the civil rights movement and then bring them forward to explain where we are in the nation today.
“Most of us when we come to celebrate Dr. Marin Luther King, hope it will be on the dream speech,” Mack said.
Mack based his message on King's drum major speech, a speech that is far less known. In that speech, Mack said, King lays out a blueprint for the future and let people know what type of lives they should lead to achieve the dream of equality for all.
Mack said he is afraid with all the success minorities have had over the past few years, with women leading a couple of major corporations and having reelected the first African-American president, people are getting complacent.
“Once you have tasted some sweet success, you aren't as hungry anymore,” Mack said.
All you have to do is go back and look at the history of this country to see things have not changed that much Mack said.
The unemployment rate for African-Americans in the '60s was twice that of whites; today it is still twice as much. Today in this county, the dropout rate for African-American children compared with white children is twice as high.
In the '60s, African Americans made up 10 percent of the population and 33 percent of the prison population; today they make up 12 percent of the population and 40 percent of the prison population.
“In the words of Malcolm X, you can't put a 9-inch knife in my back pull it out 6 inches and say we are making progress,” Mack said.
His address might make some people uncomfortable, and Mack hoped that it would because it, those people will fall into one of two categories.
“You're going to feel like you want to don your armor and fight harder for civil rights or you will be in a state of denial,” Mack said.
When asked about the number of homicides in Fort Wayne and other communities across the nation and the generation of young people who seem lost in crime, Mack said there is no easy answer.
Mack pointed to the mass school shooting across the country. They don't happen in Harlem, they happen in places like Columbine and Sandy Hook.
“We have to ask ourselves, why is that? I believe it's because we are getting further and further away from the teachings of Dr. King,” Mack said.
Mack pointed to King and how he stood strong and did not get involved with violence at a time when conditions would have made it easy to do so. He stood strong on his principle of love. Godly love, a love for all humanity that seeks nothing in return, Mack explained.
“If we had that love across the nation, we would all take the time to mentor these children as our own, but because we look at it as someone else's problem, we let them go down that wayward path,” Mack said.
Once down that path, Mack said, it's hard to bring them back, but not impossible. King has taught Mack that nothing is impossible, which is why Mack still holds out hope for these kids.