For the first time in years, Martin Luther King Day falls on Jan. 15, the civil rights leader's birthday. This year's annual prayer breakfast in Black Mountain features a speaker who grew up here - pastor George Logan.
Logan, a native of Black Mountain who lives in Morganton, will be the keynote speaker at the breakfast Feb. 10 at Camp Dorothy Walls. The event is put on annually by The Swannanoa Valley Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Corporation, which raises money for its scholarship fund that supports graduating high school seniors in the Swannanoa Valley.
Logan, founder and pastor of New Day Christian Church in Morganton, feels honored to be speaking at an event that his mother, Lillian Logan, has been involved with. Lillian and Wayne Logan, his parents, live in Black Mountain.
“My experiences coming back to Black Mountain, even though it’s not that far away, are warm,” George Logan said. “I always get the ‘warm and fuzzies’ every time I come back. I think it’s a special town.”
His fond memories of growing up in Black Mountain include attending church regularly as a child at Mills Chapel Baptist Church.
Honoring the legacy of King, who was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis 50 years ago this March, is as important now as it has ever been, Logan said.
“I think it’s vital,” he said. “And not just the man, but even more so, the principle on which he stood. I think that’s a core issue in our country, and not just now, but from its inception.”
King’s nonviolent crusade for civil rights gained national recognition in 1955 during the Montgomery bus boycott that resulted from the arrest of Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on one of the city’s buses.
The fallout included in the bombing of King’s home in 1956. A U.S. District Court's decision to end racial segregation on the city’s buses came later that year.
King, who would go on to become synonymous with the civil rights movement, was instrumental in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the year King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his crusade against racial inequality.
While King’s efforts led to progress in the treatment of African Americans in the country, Logan said, things are still “not as good as they should be,” he added.
“Race in our country is such a crucial issue. It’s not like an economic downturn or an issue with healthcare or a political thing,” Logan said. “In my opinion, a majority of the issues in our country could be boiled down to a common issue that’s becoming more pronounced.”
The struggle for civil rights in America, according to Logan, is comparable to a civil war, in the sense that “it is brothers fighting against brothers,” he added.
“Our history is so intertwined, it’s not like another country has invaded us,” he said. “There is this neglect, disdain, shame, pain. These are things that can’t stay underground for too long before they come leaking out.”
What’s needed, Logan said, is an honest conversation about the history of race in the country.
“We’ve worked diligently as a country to sanitize our past,” he said. “Nothing will change until we acknowledged 'this happened in this country, now how do we move forward together?'”
Logan was called to the ministry while on a trip to Los Angeles in the late 1980s.
“The day I arrived I was taken to a church for evening Bible study, and it was as though the speaker was speaking directly to me,” he said. “I remember at that point I gave my heart to Jesus Christ and from that day forward my perspective began to change.
“I didn’t have an excuse for not being successful,” he said. “I can’t use anyone, not the government, not the white man, not anyone, because God gave me a new hope, which is ‘we can overcome.’”
Logan, a father of five children, established his church in 1994, where he continued to work with youth and incarcerated populations.
“One of the reasons we honor Dr. King is because he stood for the little guy, or the least of these, and (because he believed in) letting them know ‘we believe in you because we believe that God didn’t make any junk,’” Logan said. “We believe that God put everyone here on earth to fulfill a destiny.”
Relying on his Christian faith for guidance, Logan chooses to focus on a specific biblical principle no matter who he is interacting with.
“If I love God with all my heart and soul and mind, then the byproduct of that is I’m going to love people the way God loves people,” he said. “For me, therein lies the foundation for social justice.”