BILLINGS — On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, one Billings pastor is taking action and has been for years to make sure MLK’s message is heard. He’s president of the Black Heritage Foundation here in Billings and is on a mission to provide support to all members of our community.
For the past 16 years, Pastor Melvin Terry has stood upon the pulpit at All Nations Church at 2520 Fifth Ave. S., preaching a message of inclusion and community.
“And we want to leave here bursting with good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people,” said Terry in a sermon on Monday.
And Terry knows his community because Billings has always been his home.
“I grew up right here going to elementary school in this building,” Terry said.
The Senior High School grad was among the minority growing up in Billings.
According to the 2020 census, there were only about 1,150 African Americans living in the city, less than 1% of the city’s population, and that gives Terry a unique perspective.
“In Billings, in all white Billings estate, city, wherever I went, that really just brought their culture into me. So sometimes, and don’t take this literally, and I thought, I’d like to be white,” said Terry.
Though Terry recalls his childhood experiences fondly, he’s seen 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, always been there,” Terry said.
It’s something he combats with his messages of love, not only as a pastor but as president of the Black Heritage Foundation, an organization that’s been in town 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 embrace each other,” said Terry.
The Black Heritage Foundation holds events throughout the year to promote equality and support the community.
That 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 speak with 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 march 37 years strong and one that honors MLK’s iconic speech each and every year.
A message of equality and honoring your fellow man, and one Terry hopes will resonate here in Billings and beyond, not just on this holiday, but every day of the year.
“Really when you stop and think about it, we’re all sisters and brothers. We’re all made the same on the inside, it’s just our outsides that are unique,” said Terry.