MLK remembered as ‘drum major for justice’ at prayer breakfast

Kellen Stepler | Editor in Chief. A screenshot from the event shows Tracey McCants Lewis accepting her award.

Kellen Stepler | Editor in Chief


In a 1968 eulogy titled “Drum Major Instinct,” Martin Luther King Jr. said he wanted to be remembered as a drum major for justice, a drum major for peace and a drum major for righteousness.

King’s legacy, and that sermon, were the focus of the 22nd Annual Homer S. Brown division (HSBD) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast and Program Monday morning. The virtual event was hosted by the Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA).

“Dr. King said that everyone could be a drum major, as long as they had a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love and lived a life of service to others,” said Regina Wilson, the HSBD chair of the ACBA. “He encouraged everyone to be a drum major.”

The program, typically held at Ebenezer Baptist Church in the Hill District, went virtual this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“2020 illuminated the continual need for drum majors, as defined by Dr. King,” Wilson said. “As we reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, we are challenged as drum majors to be of service to others, with a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said that King’s spirit lives on, and that we “as a community, as a nation, as a people, live up to the spirit of what Dr. King represented.”

Tracey McCants Lewis, a Duquesne law professor and local attorney, was the recipient of the 2021 Drum Major for Justice award. Lewis is also the deputy general counsel and director of human resources for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice,” Fitzgerald said. “Tracey McCants Lewis is one of those folks who is bending that arc towards justice.”

Elizabeth Hughes, the president of the ACBA, said that the award is presented annually to an individual or organization recognizing their contributions in perpetuating the conviction of Dr. King to make justice, equality and opportunity a reality for all people.

“From the first day we met, Tracey’s dedication to improving the lives of others around her was apparent,” Hughes said. “Her dedication to justice is woven into the very fabric of who she is.”

Lewis, Hughes said, is “unwavering in her dedication to these principle foundations of justice.”

“The pursuit of justice requires the promotion of fairness through action rooted in truth,” Hughes said. “Tracey does not just speak, she acts.”

Lewis dedicated the award to her mother, who she said “was the epitome of service.”

“She was a nurse, and she taught my sister and me how to be servant leaders,” Lewis said.

King, she said, was a true servant leader.

“He worked to serve others, to bring about racial and economic justice for all, in our nation as well as in the world,” Lewis said.

Hughes said that anyone who knows Lewis knows that she never shies away from a challenge, and “handles ignorance or injustice with the strength and grace that few possess.”

“In these uncertain times, it is even more important that we have individuals like Tracey; those with integrity, honor, and who show up to bolster the pillars of justice, and who make everyone around them do better,” Hughes said.

Lewis said she was humbled to receive the award, and was excited to be added to the list of the other recipients of the award.