The Multi-Cultural Business Committee at the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce held a virtual event Monday celebrating the life, teachings, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The community watched the 21st Annual MLK Day Celebration on the Sampson County Government YouTube channel by clicking on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 2021 Annual Celebration and via Star Communications’ TV channel.
King was a civil rights leader, leading marches for Blacks’ right to vote, desegregation, labor rights, and other basic civil rights.
He helped lead a protest march from Selma to Montgomery, a march that became known as Bloody Sunday. The march was 54 miles long and was held to promote the voting rights of African-Americans. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law seven months later. King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and organized many other nonviolent protests and marches, including the famous 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Dee Bryant, the event emcee, started the event off.
“This year things were a bit different,” Bryant stated in her speech. “Instead of being face-to-face to celebrate, we’re coming to you virtually. In the United States, things look, feel and are different than what we are used to. Dr. King’s spirit surely would be vexed at the current state of affairs.”
King was a civil rights leader as well as a humanitarian, she said.
“He marched and fought for all people, those of all races, all religions and socioeconomic status,” Bryant said. “I am sure that if Dr. King were alive today, he would have been on the forefront, telling people to keep the faith, follow the rules of healthcare professionals, and help each other in any way that we could.. He would be trying to heal the divide that constantly tries to keep us apart. He would be shocked that the very challenges he faced 60 plus years ago still face us today.”
Dr. Ray Ammons gave the invocation and Amanda Bradshaw, Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce president, spoke next.
“Dr. King dedicated his life serving others in order to build a more unified nation based on the principals of our founding fathers,” Bradshaw noted. “On April the third, 1968, Dr. King delivered his final speech in Memphis, Tennessee where he spoke only hours before his assassination of how he wished to be remembered at his funeral the day it finally came.
“He did not want those attending the funeral to talk about his Nobel Peace Prize or about the hundreds of awards he had received. Instead, he wished to be remembered as a man who had tried to live a life of service, a man who lived a life of love, a man who lived a life to clothe and feed those less fortunate. Dr. King believed that it mattered not how wealthy a person was or how well educated a person was, that every person could dedicate their life to service so that we may build a stronger nation as a whole.”
Bryant announced that Mayor Lew Starling has been a guest at the annual celebration for 21 years.
Starling said that last year he didn’t believe things could get any worse and this year he stated that he may have to eat those words. He then went on to quote King, offering quotes about nonviolent protest.
The mayor brought up two issues that arose in 2020, including the death of George Floyd Jr., a Black man who died under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer in late May. The second issue was how that served as the catalyst for protests across the country, including in Clinton, where there were marches held. Starling noted that not one person who participated in such demonstrations locally disobeyed King’s wisdom of silent, nonviolent protest.
Similarly nonviolent demonstrations were held protesting the statue to the Confederate soldiers of Sampson County, which ultimately was removed, the City Council adopting a resolution for the removal.
Deondra Peterson then sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Dr. Ted Thomas, chairman of the Multi-Cultural Business Committee, spoke at the event as well.
Thomas told the story of the ommittee that started over 23 years ago.
“Somebody made the suggestion that we organize a community event that recognized Dr. Martin Luther King on his birthday,” Thomas mentioned. “So over 21 years ago the goal was made that we would recognize him and we would keep the dream alive — that dream of unity and that dream of integrity.”
Thomas then went on to describe some of the previous MLK Annual Celebrations, the speakers, skits and other events.
“We pray in 2022 that we will be able to get back together again and celebrate the life of Martin Luther King,” Thomas stated. “But until then we ask that you do this self evaluation of yourself, that you examine those around you and you always go back to God. And may God be with each and every one of you and keep you safe. In the name of our Lord in Savior Jesus Christ, be safe.”
After Thomas gave the closing remarks, Elder Gerald Underwood gave the benediction.
Brendaly Vega Davis can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2588.
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