Dr. Juliette Martin-Thomas will be the speaker and the annual Martin Luther King Jr. prayer service, which will be held Saturday, Jan. 16, at St. Martin de Porres Parish. (Submitted photo)

The 30th annual Martin Luther King Jr. prayer service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, at St. Martin de Porres Parish. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, no seating is available, but it will be streamed on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s YouTube channel. A musical prelude begins at 1:30 p.m.

This year’s theme, “The Drum Major Instinct,” is based on a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. given Feb. 4, 1968, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Dr. Juliette Martin-Thomas, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist, will speak at the event.

In her talk, Dr. Martin-Thomas will draw upon Dr. King’s theme to show how often he used symbolism to introduce new ideas and underscore points of interest.

“I also plan to introduce the idea that the essence of a drum major is present within each of us, and propose steps to cultivate this catalytic force,” she said. “I plan to examine the power and healing potential in purposefully making a daily commitment to be a drum major in our personal and communal responsibilities. Personal agency and collective agency are interrelated.”

Dr. King served an integral role in the American civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until 1968. Dr. King fought for equality and human rights for African Americans and the economically disadvantaged, and believed that nonviolent protest is the most effective weapon against a racist and unjust society.

During Dr. King’s funeral, a tape recording was played in which he spoke of how he wanted to be remembered after his death: “I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.” (“The Drum Major Instinct Sermon,” by Dr. King on Feb. 4, 1968)

Dr. Martin-Thomas will compare the issues of today with those in Dr. King’s time.

“I plan to acknowledge the extent to which the challenges of 2020 underscore the awareness that the climate of the day affects the stride of each drum major,” she said. “Hence, complacency has no place. Vigilance is the call.”

A member of St. Martin de Porres Parish, Dr. Martin-Thomas’ credentials include years of volunteerism and community service. She also spent six years serving as the first African American clinician at Wisconsin State Prison at Waupun, a maximum-security prison for men. During her tenure with the Wisconsin Corrections system, Dr. Martin-Thomas provided services to offenders, trained corrections staff, developed a longstanding stress management program for staff, served on numerous committees, and chaired The Offender Reintegration Advisory and Planning Committee, which developed and implemented the first tri-prison arts and crafts project. Offenders from three corrections facilities (Waupun, Green Bay, Fox Lake) collectively submitted their art and crafts to be sold at Milwaukee’s Summerfest.

Dr. Martin-Thomas served on the faculty at Alverno College, where she chaired the committee that developed and implemented the first Greater Milwaukee African American Mental Health Practitioner Summit in 2012. That year she retired from all academic posts, including her long-time affiliation with the Wisconsin School of Professional Psychology.

Dr. Martin-Thomas is a poet, public speaker and storyteller. She recently published a novel, Mud Flower Blooming, which explores an array of pertinent issues, including the challenges of aging, colorism, cross-generational connections and forgiveness. More information is available on her website: www.mudflowerblooming.com.

Publicity Chairman Carl Carby said they wanted to host a small number of events but decided to make it entirely virtual this year for the safety of all. Despite the disappointment associated with changing the venue, Carby said he views this year as a plus and a minus.

“The plus is that we are collaborating with the archdiocese by live-streaming on their website, which will reach more eyes than if it was in person. Individuals will have the opportunity to click on the website at any time to see and follow the service,” he said. “The minus is that it would have been the perfect opportunity for healing for the community, city and state based on the topic and the messenger, which everyone will still get by streaming. Once the COVID is under control, we can look at what will be in store for 2022.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Prayer Service

Jan. 16

Speaker: Dr. Juliette Martin-Thomas

Prelude: 1:30 p.m.

Prayer Service: 2 p.m.