As he spoke to a crowd of people about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. near a Confederate memorial in St. Augustine’s Plaza de la Constitucion, local Pastor Willie D. Lee took a moment to talk about monuments.
His speech focused on King’s legacy, and he described the challenges King and others faced during the civil rights movement.
“You can’t change what happened. … Removing monuments and removing other things is not going to change what happened in the past,” he said. “If we can’t change our heart, moving a monument is nothing because the monument is still in your heart. … We’ve got to change from within. We’ve got to change the way we think. Look around you. You’ve got all races around us today. This shows us that God is bringing us together.”
The city of St. Augustine recently decided to keep its Plaza monument, which lists the names of local men who died serving the Confederacy. Others are still fighting the city’s decision and want that and another monument removed — the Rev. Ron Rawls, pastor of St. Paul AME Church in St. Augustine, plans to stage a protest at the next St. Augustine City Commission meeting.
An estimated 150-200 walked from St. Paul AME Church to the Plaza on Monday to honor King and to hear a message from Lee, pastor of House of Faith Church on King Street.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day event is organized by the Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee of St. Johns County.
Among those in attendance were Flagler College students students Chris Covington and Hasani Malone, who carried signs that read, “American Hero: Dr. M.L. King” and “Respect, Kindness, Civility.”
Malone said she’s noticed some people using King’s quotes to oppose protests that are happening today, which she disagrees with.
“He stood for people who didn’t have a voice,” Malone said.
Part of Lee’s speech focused on King’s eulogy, which King wrote himself, Lee said.
King said he didn’t want to be remembered for the awards he won but rather for how he loved people, Lee said. King wanted people to remember that he gave his life serving community, Lee said, and he wanted to be remembered for serving others according to the teachings of Jesus.
“It was all about getting people to come to know the Lord and know who we are as human beings,” Lee said. “Yes, we have different-colored skin, but at the end of the day we’re all the same because we all came from one blood. He created us all from one blood. And none of us are better than the other. And at the end of the day we all need one another.”