About 100 persons attended a "teach-in" at the District Building yesterday to commemorate the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 15 years ago and to try to chart ways his philosophy of social change through nonviolent protest can be used in the future.
Speakers, including Mayor Marion Barry, gave varying interpretations of King's teachings and their relevance for the 1980s.
The Rev. Henry Silva, a board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said that King left "a detailed blueprint of what black leaders should be doing today," but that the leaders have not followed it. He said King's plan involved doing more to unite black churches and develop the talents of black youths.
"In order for black people to move forward as King dreamed they would, the church must take on a bigger role than building bigger churches, developing isolated programs and preaching on Sunday," Silva said.
Fran Farmer, executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, said that King's philosophy is relevant today because it was founded on a belief that an individual can affect the social order.
"Apartheid in this country--which is what segregation was--started to fall when one lone woman Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus," Farmer said.
D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, who worked closely with King on some of his marches and demonstrations, said he believed King would have supported the idea of a black presidential candidate in order to bring progressive issues to the forefront of presidential campaigns.
"I'm confident King would be engaged in this discussion," Fauntroy said. "He believed that the most important walk was a short step to the ballot box."
Fauntroy also described the "New Coalition of Conscience," a group formed to mark the 20th anniversary of the August 1963 march on Washington during which King gave his famous "I have a dream" speech.
Fauntroy said the new group will seek to reunite the various social action groups that formed the civil rights coalition under King's leadership.