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2024 Drum Major Empower the Dream Service

This year the annual service is on Sunday, February 18th

We can all agree that everywhere around the world, people are looking for a beacon of light to guide their way. A voice of hope and inspiration to comfort and guide them.

As the only godchild of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Rev. Dr. J.W. Matt

Hennessee has devoted his life to service and continuing the legacy of Dr. King. He is

known in our community to uplift the human spirit and bring a unique perspective to

themes of unity, truth, justice, peace, and love regardless of faith.

As the senior servant of The Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. J.W. Matt

Hennessee is also a peacemaker and bridge builder.

Dr. King spoke at the historic church in November 1961 as part of his trip to the Pacific

Northwest . It was the only church in Oregon where he addressed the “Beloved

Community.” Each year Rev. Dr. J.W. Matt Hennessee and the Vancouver Avenue First

Baptist Church, host an annual service to honor MLK Jr.

This year the annual service is on Sunday, February 18th, and is titled “2024 Drum

Major Empower the Dream''. The service will celebrate the community and spread a

message of hope and resilience in honor of MLK Jr. There will be choirs, guest

speakers, scholarship recipients, award winners, and more.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the church held a special MLK service each year.

This year, it was originally scheduled to honor MLK day but was rescheduled due to the

ice storm. The service will be in-person at the Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church, as

well as live-streamed on their Facebook ( ) for more people to


This year, the Keynote Speaker is Dr. Jessica Taylor. Taylor is the first Black female

president of Multnomah University in Portland and of the entire Council for Christian

Colleges and Universities (CCCU).

Dr. Taylor will be joined by many other influential politicians and city leaders, including

Mayor Ted Wheeler Chair and Multnomah County Chair, Jessica Vega Pederson. Rev.

Dr. J.W. Matt Hennessee will lead the service, and there will be speakers representing

various faiths and government officials.

Rev. Dr. J.W. Matt Hennessee is very passionate about this event stating, “In times like

these, it is imperative that we embody the spirit, character, and courage of Dr. King.

Now more than ever we must lift each other up. We must shine a bright light on the

qualities that can heal the world, and on the women and men who embody these

qualities. Together, we will keep the dream alive.”

Mrs. King believes Rev. Dr. J.W. Matt Hennessee joins a small group of men who

continue MLK’s important work: standing for peace, inter-faith unity, and interpersonal

ability to love everyone, listen to others, and work together for human and civil rights.

Rev. Dr. J.W. Matt Hennessee has spent a lot of time over the years with Mrs. King and

the entire family. He was one of the speakers who gave a eulogy at Coretta Scott King's

celebration of life on February 6, 2006.

The purpose of the special service is to keep MLK’s dream alive. The community truly

comes together for this event and celebrates each other's accomplishments as well as

acknowledging what still needs to be done.


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