Rock Island MLK Day speakers urge audience to counter hatred with love

ROCK ISLAND --  As hundreds pack the community center named for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they learn that this is no time to stay silent.

"You speak out," said Pastor Mark Anderson on Monday, January 16.  "You represent the cause. You fight against injustice."

But he also issues a challenge to fight negativity from Washington, D.C. with the intelligence, civility and love embodied by Dr. King.

"That message of love -- it transcends all races, cultures, and it's a powerful message that still stands today," he said.

Love that comes through in performance from the Westbrook Singers and several inspirational speakers.

"I want to see restoration," said Lynda Sargent, Heart of Hope Ministries. "I want to see people have hope again."

Sargent, the 2017 Dream Award recipient, feels that uncertainty intensifying in the days before Donald Trump becomes president.

"I think there is a lot of fear," she continued.

There's fear projected by Washington politicians that reaches back to Rock Island.

"I work with a lot of immigrant families, in particular, young children that come into our center," she said.  "They're afraid."

Pastor Anderson says that by using love to fight fear and hateful rhetoric, it's a way to remember Dr. King's philosophy to influence change.

"If politicians put their own differences aside and remember that it's about the people, hopefully we can bring about positive change in the country," he said.

Speakers warn that the work is not done. The struggle isn't over. There's still much to do.

They say that embracing Dr. King's legacy can bring positive results during an ongoing struggle.

"When we get that, we see that things can change," Sargent concluded.