Billings pastor spreads message of equality on MLK day
BILLINGS – This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a Billings pastor is taking action and has been making sure MLK’s message is heard for years. He is President of the Black Heritage Foundation here in Billings and has a mission to support all members of our community.
For the past 16 years, Pastor Melvin Terry has stood at the pulpit of All Nations Church at 2520 Fifth Ave. S. and preached a message of inclusion and community.
“And we want to burst here with good news of great joy that will be for all people,” Terry said in a sermon Monday.
And Terry knows his community because Billings has always been his home.
“I grew up here and went to elementary school in this building,” Terry said.
The senior high school graduate was part of the minority who grew up in Billings.
According to the 2020 census, only about 1,150 African Americans lived in the city, less than 1% of the city’s population, and that gives Terry a unique perspective.
“In Billings, in all the white Billings properties, in the city, wherever I went, that really brought their culture to me. Well sometimes, and don’t take that literally, and I thought I’d like to be white,” Terry said.
Although Terry fondly recalls his childhood experiences, he understood why Martin Luther King Jr.’s message is so important.
“Racism in this world of the United States and even in the state of Montana, I wouldn’t say it’s taken a step back, but it’s always been there, always there,” Terry said.
He fights against this with his love messages, not only as a pastor but also as president of the Black Heritage Foundation, an organization that has existed in the city since 2002.
“Our mission is to bring people together, not just black people. Even though the name of our foundation is Black Heritage Foundation, we want to bring all people together, just be able to hug each other,” said Terry.
The Black Heritage Foundation hosts equality and community support events throughout the year.
This includes the annual MLK walk from South Park to Walla Walla University on the South Side.
“It’s important because we want to be able to talk to people and let them know that we’re not people that you can’t talk to and no other culture should be,” Terry said.
It’s a 37-year march that honors MLK’s iconic speech each year.
A message of equality and reverence for those around you, and a message that Terry hopes will resonate here in Billings and beyond, not just on this holiday but every day of the year.
“Really, if you stop and think about it, we’re all sisters and brothers. We are all the same on the inside, only our outside is unique,” said Terry.