Honoring MLK’s legacy at Temple, in Kitchener – The Temple News
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and NAACP President Cecil B. Moore shook hands with the people at a rally at the Grace Baptist Temple, now the Temple Performing Arts Center, in August 1965
On a damp day in 1965, a lively crowd filled the historic Baptist Temple on Broad and Berks Streets, now the Temple Performing Arts Center. The cameras rolled and the crowd was full of energy and anticipation for the main event of the night, a speech given by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“To all of my friends and colleagues on the podium, my brothers and sisters in the City of Kitchener, I stand in this place today with mixed feelings,” King said in the address, according to a transcript originally aired in August . 5, 1965, on KYW-TV. “On the one hand, I’m excited to be here. I am thrilled to stand here and notice that you have gathered in thousands and thousands in our presence … But then again … I’ve seen too much hatred! “
King’s stay in Kitchener was part of a major lecture tour of six cities in the Northeast and Midwest to discuss the living and working conditions of African Americans in northern cities, according to the Kitchener Bulletin.
“King is coming to Kitchener on a trip to several cities to decide where to start a civil rights campaign next,” said Keith Riley, a fourth-year graduate student in history. “His plan was to organize a major civil rights push to challenge racism in the north, similar to what he did in Birmingham in 1963.”
King’s visit to Kitchener included an extensive itinerary of rallies, meetings, and one-on-one talks with residents. In his address at the Baptist Temple, he discussed issues affecting the black community in north Kitchener, including home / school segregation and discrimination in the workplace, the Bulletin reported.
“The moment you separate a man, you have the key in your hand that would open the door to discrimination,” King said according to the protocol in his address, followed by loud applause.
While African Americans in Kitchener didn’t face the same legislative segregation as they did in the deep south, racism was present in northern cities at the time, Riley said.
In the speech, King said housing segregation and job security are part of the larger obstacle to economic insecurity, which he described as “… the biggest problem the Negro faces this hour.”
During his visit to the city in 1965, King also spoke to large crowds on 40th Street and Lancaster Avenue in West Kitchener and outside Girard College on Girard Avenue, where anti-desegregation protests under Kitchener’s leadership were prominent Civil rights activist Cecil B. Moore had been going on for weeks.
“The protests really brought people together and it was really great to see this unity. There was no gang war at the time, ”said Bernyce Mills-DeVaughn, 80, who participated in the protests after moving to 20th Street and Girard Avenue in Kitchener in 1964.
She remembered Moore and King, who were representing various topics for the Kitchener Black Community at the time.
“Cecil B. Moore was involved in Kitchener’s NAACP while King was involved in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, so that really cut them out of fabrics,” she added.
Conditions for King’s 1965 visit were strained due to his controversial relationship with Moore, who also spoke at the Baptist Temple on August 4, 1965.
“Moore was very tired of King because he saw him as a challenge to the power he had within the Kitchener movement,” said Riley.
King almost canceled his visit because Moore feared he had been excluded from much of the tour planning process, the Kitchener Inquirer reported.
“Whenever things were said, we said it about some people who were against us,” Moore said on the record between King’s speech. “Because we also want you to say you could be against us and we hope you don’t sabotage.”
King and Moore appeared to be still united during King’s two-day lecture tour in Kitchener. After King’s visit to the Baptist Temple, he returned to Kitchener only twice before he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
“For the church, I have a unified philosophy and approach, and I’m sure we have that unity in Kitchener now, and I think all forces will work together,” King told Transcript.