MLK church pastor on King’s dream: ‘We still have a long way to go’

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RENTON, Wash. -- The name Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Baptist Church is a mouthful, but the mission is simple.

"There's a responsibility to hold fast to the gospel, to speak truth to power and to just press forward in the fulfillment of the dream of Dr. King," said the Rev. Johnny J. Youngblood.

Youngblood feels that responsibility of preaching behind the pulpit with a name like Martin Luther King Jr. attached to it. He finds that -- more than five decades after King marched -- the fight for civil rights is still in play.

"While we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go," Youngblood said. He pointed to battles like affordable housing, education and even voting rights.

"We've gone from having the right to vote and now there's an issue in rezoning or an attempt to rezone," he said. "Adversity is still adversity. It may put on different apparel but it's still adversity."

As he readied for his first Easter service as pastor at this church, Youngblood reflected on his immediate goals for the community.

"To solidify the congregation," he said. "To be there in the community for voting; to be there with our youth; to help them understand not only the importance of education but even male presence."

That last point is a nod to his famous father, the Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood, who turned a depleted institution, St. Paul Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, into a thriving cultural hub. He did it, in part, by intentionally targeting young black men to come to church.

In and out of church, this 49-year-old pastor from New Orleans is inspired by this country's youth.

"We've just seen our youth all across the country stepping up and it's a bit different. They're not walking and singing some of the spirituals but nonetheless, they are walking," Youngblood said. "They are walking and they're walking with a purpose."

With that, he sees the legacy of King marching on.

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