PITTSBURGH – “Cursed we Bless; Persecuted we Endure” A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King & Archbishop Iakovos in Unity Commemorating the Historic March in Selma, 1965, and celebrating the common cause in human and civil rights was held on March 11.
The well-attended event also honored Florence Williams and featured a program by the African Heritage Room Committee and the Greek Room Committee of the Nationality Rooms Program at the University of Pittsburgh, together with the American Hellenic Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastminster Presbyterian Church.
As Nick Giannoukakis of the Greek Room Committee told The National Herald, “The event was a historical first as well as a first in kind. It’s success today resulted in the two communities, through the respective organizers, deciding, from now on, to come together every February to celebrate the two visionary leaders but to also celebrate Greek Americans who also participated in social justice issues since the time of Rev. King.”
The welcoming remarks and opening prayer were given by Rev. Paul Roberts Pastor, Eastminster Presbyterian Church. Giannoukakis said, “Reverend Roberts and the Very Rev. Dr. Stelyios Muksuris, representing Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh, together with Pennsylvania State Representative Edward Gainey gave passionate, fiery, and very moving presentations that moved everyone in attendance to remember that in unity, humanity moves past racism and intolerance. His Grace Bishop Waltersheid (representing Bishop Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh) spoke about resurrection and unity under God. The two choirs were outstanding, rapper JaVon Howse channeled the life of Rev. Dr. King in a powerful and very touching manner, and the poem readers passionately showed that resurrection triumphs over the dark and those who want to keep humanity in the dark.”
“Precious Lord, Take My Hand” (Thomas Dorsey) was performed by the Gospel Mass Choir: Eastminster Presbyterian Church/Kingdom Light Ministries International -Verse 1 solo in the style of Mahalia Jackson (Nikki Porter). St. Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 4:9-16) was recited according to Byzantine tradition by Phillip Yamalis- Byzantine Choir of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh.
The Introduction to the Program was by Donna Alexander of the African Heritage Room Committee and Giannoukakis. A video presentation on Archbishop Iakovos who passed away on April 10, 2005 was also included in the program. Rich Fitzgerald- Allegheny County Chief Executive, Feyisola Alabi- representing Mayor William Peduto, and Edward C. Gainey- PA State Representative, District 24, presented their greetings and thoughts.
Eliana Gagnon- Poetry Competition Award Winner, recited “What the bond was and wasn’t” in memory of Selma, 1965. “Up on the Mountain High” an ecclesiastic hymn in celebration of Archbishop Iakovos, was performed in the original Greek by the Byzantine Choir of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh. The hymn is a lamentation for the churches lost and desecrated during 400 years of Ottoman slavery.
Rev. Roberts offered his final thoughts, thanking all those present, and gave the closing prayer to conclude the program which was followed by refreshments served in Eastminster Presbyterian Church Hall.
The University of Pittsburgh Nationality Room Committees and the American-Hellenic Foundation of Western PA gratefully acknowledge and thank Rev. Roberts, Eastminster Presbyterian Church, his staff, Rev. Nicol L. Porter, Minister of Music, and Mrs. Stacy Sutton, in welcoming and facilitating this event as well as their gracious hospitality in the fellowship reception.