On Monday morning, the citizens of Ardmore celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a parade and a special presentation at the HFV Wilson Community Center. During the ceremony the MLK Youth Mass Choir performed a selection of songs, and pastor, theater director and motivational speaker Gary “Koop” Cooper addressed the crowd. During the speech, Cooper told the audience that in order to change racism they must first learn to change themselves and love their fellow man.
Cooper began by telling the story of Rodney King and the Los Angeles riots. In March of 1991, King was beaten by police after leading them on a high speed chase through the streets of Los Angeles. Four officers were later charged with assault and use of excessive force. In April 1992, all were acquitted of assault, and three of the four were acquitted of excessive force. Outrage over the acquittals sparked riots in the city of Los Angeles. The riots resulted in over $1 billion in damages to property as businesses were looted and burned. Sixty-three people were killed, and thousands more were injured.
Cooper said that King was later interviewed by Los Angeles news broadcaster KTLA, and they asked him his opinion on the riots and everything that happened.
“Rodney King said five little words that should have shaped our nation — but didn’t,” Cooper said. “He said, ‘can’t we all get along.’”
Cooper said this question was also a part of Dr. King’s mission.
“We have to understand that Dr. King was not just fighting for our civil rights, he was also fighting for the very statement that Rodney King said, can’t we all get along,” Cooper said.
Later he shared his opinion on why the people of this country — and the world — have trouble achieving this goal.
“The reason we can’t get along is because we have no love for one another or our fellow man,” Cooper said. “We do not have a skin issue in this world, we have a sin issue.”
Near the end of his speech, Cooper asked the audience to stand and hold hands with the person next to them. He urged everyone to love each other and to forgive people of other races who have treated them unfairly.
“Can we all get along? Yes we can, but the only way that’s going to happen is for us to make a vertical line with God, so we can work out the horizontal stuff down here,” Cooper said. “White people aren’t the problem, you are. Black people aren’t the problem, you are. Hispanic people aren’t the problem, you are. Whatever your problem is you need to look no further than in the mirror.”
Cooper told the audience that to truly impact racism, people must first work on themselves.
“Can we all get along? Yes we can. Do your part,” Cooper said.