Felton Whitfield, right, a member of the 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration Committee, presents the Suffolk Community Award to former councilman Leroy Bennett. Monday’s event at East End Baptist Church also included speeches and music.

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King’s dream shapes event

Published 8:57pm Monday, January 21, 2013

More than 250 people came together Monday to celebrate renowned civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The event, held at East End Baptist Church, came with many references to the holiday falling on the second inaugural of President Barack Obama. The schedule initially included a broadcast of the inauguration, but the event ran past the time Obama was set to take the oath of office.

Even so, the buoyant celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, put on by a committee chaired by local pastor Trevon Boone, included awards presentations, music and praise dancers, and a message by Dr. Shelton Murphy, pastor of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church in Norfolk.

A praise dancer with the Shakina Teel and the Shekinah Glory Praise Dance Ministry performs during Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

The theme of the day centered on what is arguably King’s most famous line: “I have a dream.”

Murphy preached from Judges 7, which relates the story of God delivering the Midianites into the hands of Israel’s 300-man army after one of the men had a dream about a cake of barley bread rolling into the Midianites’ camp and smiting the army. The Israelites had only to blow their trumpets and break their pitchers, creating a great ruckus, and the pesky Midianites that had tortured Israel for seven years fled.

“God saved a whole race of people with a dream,” Murphy said, comparing the dream in the Bible to King’s dream of racial equality achieved without violence. “Gideon won the victory and didn’t have to lift one finger.”

Murphy said King’s dream was what frightened the establishment at the time.

“They were not afraid of him until they heard about the dream,” Murphy said. “The biggest fear the slave owners had was that their slaves would dream about being free. When we began to dream, we became dangerous. That’s why Dr. King was considered to be dangerous. As a man, he was not a problem, but his dream — it threatened the status quo.”

Murphy urged those in attendance, especially young people, never to give up on their dreams.

“Don’t let nobody steal your dream,” he said, pointing out that black leaders such as Booker T. Washington, Colin Powell and Lorraine Hansberry all had dreams. “If they steal it, they’re trying to steal the answer to your prayer. Dreams are precious.”

Also during the event, two awards were presented. Former councilman Leroy Bennett accepted the Suffolk Community Award. He thanked voters who supported him for election in his four terms as a councilman and in his unsuccessful bid for mayor last year.

“I cannot thank you enough for this honor,” he said. “I’m not going to leave Suffolk. I’m still going to be a servant of the people.”

In addition, representatives of the Better Man Coalition accepted the I Have a Dream Award. The Better Man Coalition helps to provide employment, housing and other services to men who have been released from incarceration and are dreaming of making a better life.

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