City celebrates King’s life

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 21, 2003

About 350 people attended the annual Suffolk City-wide Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration at 11 a.m. Monday in Lakeland High School. The Rev. Wendell Waller, attorney for the Suffolk City School Board and pastor of Christian Home Baptist Church in Windsor, was the keynote speaker. Daylong celebrations of King’s birthday were marked in this way all over the United States.

At Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., where Dr. Martin Luther King was once pastor, a crowd of about 1,000 people attended to commemorate his name as a great champion of peace and equal rights for all. Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia referred to King as a native son of Georgia who changed his life, the life of his grandson, our lives, and the life of an entire nation and indeed the world for the better.

&uot;We must never forget that one person and, only one person can make a difference,&uot; said Miller.

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The program opened with the Posting of Colors by the Western Tidewater Regional Jail Marching Unit followed by the crowd singing &uot;Lift Every Voice and Sing&uot; and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Like Miller, Waller stressed the importance of people making a difference in others’ lives. He said that being complacent will only end in broken dreams, and that if we want to continue the dream, we must have courage to do what is right and to serve others. His 45-minute speech was interrupted several times with applause.

&uot;It’s doing what is right and not about what is easy. The issue of courage means being willing to stand up and be counted even when it means you may have to stand alone,&uot; he said. &uot;If we want to commit ourselves to the life of Dr. King, then we must commit ourselves to serving each other.&uot;

Waller also reminded the audience that the struggle continues. He gave some examples: &uot;Anytime senior citizens have to decide on whether to buy medicine or to put food on the table, the struggle continues. When there are more African-American males in jail than on college campuses, the struggle continues. When you see young mothers having babies and placing them in trashcans instead of in the hospital, the struggle continues.

He reiterated that we have come a long ways but still have a long ways to go.

&uot;The Dr. Martin Luther King holiday is not just for Afro-Americans but for all citizens who believe in right and righteousness,&uot; Waller said.

These were just a few excerpts from the speech of what he said that the King holiday means.

During the entire speech two little girls, Melanie Ingram and Julie McIntyre, sat motionless and taking in what was being said.

Ingram, 10, is a student at Elephant’s Fork Elementary, and said that she attended the celebration because she wanted Dr. King to be represented. McIntyre, 6, is a student at King’s Fork Elementary, and said she attended because she wanted to learn more about King.

The crowd was much larger than last year’s and Ann Saunders attended for the first time.

&uot;Today was such a lovely day, and I thought about what this great man did for us. I just couldn’t stay home,&uot; Saunders said.

Fannie and Clifton Bowers have attended the celebration several times.

&uot;We make sure that this is one of those events that will always be on our list of things to do on this particular holiday because no other man who has ever lived has done so much for the sake of equal rights for all people,&uot; said Bowers.

The program is never presented without recognizing a person or organization that has contributed extraordinary service in the community. The &uot;I Have A Dream Award&uot; was presented to the Disabled American Veterans, Suffolk Chapter 5. Last year this chapter fed over 300 people, gave away over 600 pounds of food, visited the homeless shelter and rest homes in the area. Alexander Blizzard accepted the award on behalf of the chapter, which was presented by Dr. Val Livingston, the executive director of Genieve Shelter.

Second Chance, a musical ensemble under the direction of Earlene Lee, sang two selections; Dusti Johnson and Kelly Bowen from Magnolia United Methodist Church performed in Liturgical Dance.

The Rev. Sylvester Silver, pastor of Gates of Heaven Church of God in Christ, presided during the event. Others on the program were Thomas Whitley, principal of Lakeland; Dana E. Dickens III, mayor; the Rev. Gregory Johnson, youth pastor at New Calvary & Metropolitan Baptist churches; the Rev. Diane Snowa, pastor of Portsmouth United Congregational Church; and the Rev. Tony Peaks.

Members of the Youth Ushers Board from New Calvary Baptist Church served as ushers.

Missing from the program were MLK essay contest entries, which were not judged at the time of the program. However, awards will be presented in February and announced in this newspaper at that time.