Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., final performance at Chautauqua

| July 13, 2015

COSHOCTON – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as portrayed by Marvin Jefferson, gave the concluding performance for this year’s Ohio Chautauqua at the Coshocton County Fairgrounds on Saturday evening, July 11. Jefferson’s portrayal was from both an interview with a reporter and his sermon speaking out against the Vietnam War from April 30, 1967.

He responded to questions from the newspaper reporter, talking about the Watts Riots and the riots in Detroit – where young people shouted, “We won”. Jefferson said, “With 34 Negroes dead, I’m not sure about that. The rioters responded, “We won because we made them pay attention.”

Jefferson talked about both racism and the poverty issue in his conversation with the reporter. “Racism and poverty are both very deep issues in our country – we need to find a creative way to avoid anger – we need to take all that anger and turn it into something constructive.”

Jefferson said that King grew up in a very loving household and he (King) was baptized on Jan. 27, 1956 – racing his sister up the aisle so that she could not beat me to get baptized.

“Love is something very easy for me to accept – I grew up around it.”

“My father was a disciplinarian – and I wasn’t whipped until I was 15 years old.” He said, “Boy, I’m gonna whip you until you become somebody.”

“Our parents did well sheltering us from segregation in the south. Two events stand out to me, I used to have a young white boy whose parents owned a store in the neighborhood – he would come over to my house and we would play together – until one day he said he couldn’t play anymore “because you’re colored.” I was very disturbed by this.”

My parents told us, “You’re just as good as anyone else – we’re Christians and we love everyone.”

“My daughter saw these billboards around town and commercials on television for a place called “Funtown”. She constantly asked about going there – and finally I had to tell her, “You can’t go to Funtown because you are a Negro child and they do not allow Negro children to go to Funtown – one day I will make sure you can go . . . and one of the times that I was jailed I told her I was in jail so I, “Can get you to Funtown.”

“Another time I stood for 90 miles all the way to Atlanta, Georgia, in the rear of a bus. That is about the angriest I have ever been.”

“I was arrested for the first time on Jan. 26, 1956 – and that was very traumatic. I received nasty and obscene phone calls all the next day – and people even threatened to blow up my house and my family.”

“I had to call upon that person that could make something out of nothing – I had to make God real for myself. I told God that I’m at the end of my rope.”

“God told me – You stand up for the truth, you stand up for the righteousness, you stand up for justice. From this point forward, I will never leave you alone.”

“I knew that God was with us in this movement and that we must learn to love our white brothers.”

Jefferson concluded his portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by giving the sermon that King gave to his flock at Ebenezer Baptist Church opposing the Vietnam War, saying, “It is an unjust and evil war.”

“Most nations are deceived by themselves”, said King in the sermon.

King said that he spoke out on the war because, “I love America.”

Lacey Richcreek from Coshocton asked a good question each night of Chautauqua and this night was no exception, when she asked, “Did your daughter ever make it to Funtown?”

Jefferson responded as King’s character, saying, “Yes, and when we did, many people there said, “Welcome Dr. King!”

Lula Williams of Coshocton, who attended the performance, said, “I was really impacted by Dr. King because I was a grown woman when he got started. I noticed that he went to Morehouse College and I have a great-grandson who just graduated from Morehouse this year with a degree in math. I was always impressed with Dr. King’s nonviolent acts and that’s the only way that you can correct things. Violence breeds violence. The only way to combat it is through nonviolent behavior.”

Jefferson said about his portrayal of King, “I have to say that I wasn’t drawn to the character initially, it was drawn to me. Because I didn’t choose to do Dr. King, I was asked if I would portray him and that was in 1988 and from there I kept portraying him and of course when I became a Chautauquan I wanted to turn him into a Chautauqua figure in 2000 but my ego is not that big. I was asked to do it; I didn’t do it on my own.”

Jefferson said he identified with Dr. King, “Gosh, he’s a hero in so many ways. He is a hero, he’s an example, he expresses the best in us –and that’s all Americans. If he brings out the best in me, that’s good. I’m working on it-I’m not there yet. But he helps me to work to be better.”

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About the Author ()

I live with my beautiful wife Nancy on a small farm just outside Coshocton. We have been married for thirty two years and have two grown children, Jessica and Jacob. Jessica is married to Aaron Mencer and they are employed with Coshocton City Schools. Jacob is a sophomore at Kent State University. I graduated from River View High School, have a Bachelor’s Degree from North Carolina Wesleyan University and am actively involved with the Roscoe United Methodist Church, serve on several local committees and am a member of the Coshocton Kiwanis Club, having served as Past-President. I love reading, especially military thrillers, the Civil War and history in general. My goal is to write a novel. My wife and I are also AdvoCare distributors and encourage anyone wanting to lose weight, gain energy and better health to explore AdvoCare at our website; www.fortunes4advocare.com. I love the media field, innovative technology and have worked in newspapers for over 30 years – in fact, my first job was delivering newspapers. The Beacon is a dream made possible by the support of this community and a great team. I hope to continue serving Coshocton County for many years.

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