To the editor:
My wife and I had the privilege of being the guests of Rev. Tony Barton at the Sunflower Missionary Baptist Church where he was the guest speaker Monday night. Rev. Barton delivered a powerful and enlightening speech about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his vision of America. He captivated the audience with many facts about Dr. King with a voice and passion reminiscent of Dr. King himself. Fortunately, if you were not able to attend, his speech was taped and may be viewed on his Tony Barton Facebook page.
We really enjoyed the program the church provided and the warmth we felt there from the congregation and their reverend, Dr. Lewis. There were many religious leaders of different faiths from our community in the audience. Our newly elected commissioner, Jermaine Wilson, was also in attendance. He enthusiastically delivered a poem he had written about Dr. King which led into Rev. Barton's introduction. After the service, Commissioner Wilson introduced himself to me and we exchanged pleasantries. He seems like a good person and I truly hope he succeeds in achieving the best for our community.
However, one event occurred that absolutely appalled me. After the introduction of the guest speaker was conducted and Rev. Barton had already began walking toward the podium, Rep. Jeff Pittman emerged from the crowd to take the stage. I have never been more embarrassed for somebody than I had at that moment watching Rev. Barton graciously return to his seat. For Rep. Pittman to insert himself between the introduction of the guest speaker's presentation is unconscionable. I can't say with certainty how or why it occurred or why Rep. Pittman would even accept or request the privilege to insert himself into that situation. The speech he delivered, about racism, more resembled a campaign stump speech than a tribute to Dr. King. Additionally, he did not thank or acknowledge Rev. Barton for stepping aside. I can say it was highly out of place and gave many of us the impression Rev. Barton was treated as less than first class by Rep. Pittman. I hope Rep. Pittman's intention was not to intentionally upstage Rev. Barton, but rather participate in the celebration of Dr. King's life. Perhaps he will take some time to reflect upon this as a teachable moment and practice better etiquette next time he is a guest and keep in mind a quotation by Dr. King, “The time is always right to do what is right.”