Moore: Let freedom ring from the Empire State

DOVER — John G. Moore Sr., a familiar face and voice in our community, will be channeling the words of Martin Luther King Jr. Monday morning in Albany, New York.

Once again, the Rev. Moore will perform Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech but this time he’ll insert new wording to fit the nation’s present-day challenges.

“I know that speech, word for word of what he did in Washington,” said the Rev. Moore. “But I brought it down to today.”

From the Editor logo copy copyThe audience Monday will include New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and about 2,500 others at a King observance at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany.

For two decades, the Rev. Moore has been carrying on the spirit of Dr. King, capturing the cadence and building on his message of hope.

When the Dover youth pastor opens the speech in Albany, he’ll drop the reference of 100 years since the Emancipation Proclamation and replace it with 53 years since Dr. King’s speech in the nation’s capital.

The message, he said, still works today. But the worries of 2016 are different.

“The reality is that all problems belong to all of us,” said the Rev. Moore. “(Dr. King) talks about an ‘inescapable network of mutuality caught in a single garment of destiny.’ When it affects one directly, it affects all indirectly.

“When we look at America today, the problems in Chicago are all of our problems, no matter where you live. The problems in Florida or Ferguson are our problems and we all have to do what we can to make a difference.”

Another twist, he said, will be on Dr. King’s line, “My four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.”

“I say ‘One day down in Florida, people who are hungry to use weapons on innocent people will one day put down those weapons and see people as human beings and brothers and sisters,’ ” said the Rev. Moore.

At the end of the speech, Dr. King rallied the crowd with the cry of “let freedom ring” from “the prodigious

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The Rev. John G. Moore Sr., a Dover youth pastor, will pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday. (Delaware State News/Andrew West)

mountains of New Hampshire” and other points across the nation.

The Rev. Moore said he will call for freedom specifically in some of the places in news headlines in recent years, so he’ll roll out “the Columbine state of Colorado” instead of the “snowcapped Rockies of Colorado.”

“He was hitting states that were really oppressed with the segregation issue,” said the Rev. Moore. “So what I said is, ‘Not only that, let freedom ring from the Lincoln state, home of Chicago, let freedom ring from the Empire State of Brooklyn.’”

After the stirring lines of “free at last,” the Rev. Moore will close with an excerpt of King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon.

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The Rev. Moore makes 30 to 40 appearances a year as a King reenactor, taking the message to church folks up and down the state and young people in schools and detention centers.

The Rev. Moore grew up in some tough circumstances in Philadelphia before a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force. He is now vice president of resource development for United Way of Delaware.

“That’s my responsibility for keeping the legacy alive,” said the Rev. Moore. “A lot of people don’t know me, they just know the King speeches. They’ll say, ‘Hey, Dr. King!’ No. it’s John Moore.’”

If they insist, he slips into character and offers the King voice in a teasing manner, “Ah, yea, that’s me.”

“It’s an honor,” he said. “The kids will see you in Walmart or walking down the street and they’ll say, ‘there’s the Dr. King man.’ ”

Today’s youth, he said, recognize the “I Have a Dream” speech readily, but may not fully appreciate the whole backstory.

“There is so much emphasis on ‘I Have a Dream’ that you get locked into thinking that that’s it,” he said. “They don’t realize the leadership of the Montgomery bus boycott, they don’t remember so much the challenges in Birmingham and Selma. So a lot more of it is getting away from the fights for voter rights and so forth.

“Kids today have received the liberties from all these great people of the past, but they’re being pushed aside and all they think of mainly on Dr. King’s birthday is ‘I Have a Dream’ and it’s a time to celebrate that speech.

“There’s so much more than that.”

That said, he recognizes the teachers who have delved deeper into civil rights history.

“It’s awesome that when I go to schools and they have spent some time studying,” he said. “What happens is that at the end, when I do a Q and A, you can tell when they have been prepped. I’ll hear a second-grader say ‘Rosa Parks is the one that sat on the bus’ and ‘Dr. King got shot in Memphis.’ They have some great teachers. From that perspective, I think the kids are learning.

“From just a general conversation, to talk with young people, it’s almost like they think some of that history was fictional — ‘I see the pictures and the people, but did that really happen?’ Two things — yea, it really happened and, second, I know you’re just a kid, but it really wasn’t that long ago.”

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Just a few days ago when President Obama was outlining gun control initiatives, he tossed in a King line — the “fierce urgency of now.”

It was a line Dr. King used in the 1963 speech before 250,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

“We have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now,” Dr. King said that day. “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.”

The Rev. Moore said he especially liked the King response to someone who would say to wait, but had no idea what waiting means.

“He said, ‘Gradualism leads to standstill-ism and do-nothing-ism,” the Rev. Moore said.

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This editor put the Rev. Moore on the spot Thursday, requesting a quick video of his work.

He launched into a bit of King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”

Check out the clip above.

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The Rev. Moore has the keynote role at the event in Albany, appearing just before three-time Grammy-winning gospel artist Dorinda Clark-Cole performs.

The event in Albany will webcast live at www.nyking.org.

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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