Suffolk celebrates Martin Luther King

Published 9:26 pm Monday, January 17, 2011

Dr. John Kenny, keynote speaker at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, preaches from the pulpit of Tabernacle Christian Church.

The Suffolk community came together Monday to commemorate the birthday of a renowned civil rights leader.

The MLK Group hosted the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Tabernacle Christian Church. It included musical selections, performances by youth choirs and presentations of awards to young people.

Angela Turntine, owner of Turntine Insurance Agency, gave her employees the day off to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. She said that a past employer did not give her or her co-workers the day off, and she always told herself that when she owned her own business, she would give her employees the holiday.

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“I came in remembrance of Martin Luther King,” Turntine said. “I don’t think we should take this day just to sit around. As much as he did for us to have this right, I think we should honor him. How can you not honor a man that great?”

Student groups also participated in the event, including the King’s Fork High School Air Force ROTC, the Lakeland High School Band and the Suffolk Office on Youth.

“We came in and showed our gratitude to the great Martin Luther King,” said Quamaine Riddick, Lakeland High School Senior and member of the band that performed during the event.

There were many prominent visitors at the event, including School Board members Lorraine Skeeter, Enoch Copeland and Thelma Hinton. Also in attendance was Deran Whitney, superintendent of Suffolk Public Schools; Randy Carter, Clerk of the Circuit Court; Selena Cuffee-Glenn, city manager; members of the City Council; and more.

“I came out to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.,” Hinton said. “He paved the way for many of us. We still deal with racism and sexism, but overall we’ve come a long way. And I’m proud to be a part of today’s history.”

“I can remember the movement myself as a little girl,” she added. “Society is more forgiving and more accepting of one another.”

Dr. L.D. Britt, a Suffolk native who currently serves as president of the American College of Surgeons and surgery professor of Eastern Virginia Medical School, was presented with the MLK Suffolk Community Service Award because of his service to Suffolk and the surrounding areas.

The Retired Teachers Association was honored with the “Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Award” for setting positive examples for young people and for going above and beyond the call of duty to help students.

Dr. John Kenny, dean of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, served as the keynote speaker. Kenny referenced Ezekiel 37 in the Holy Bible, where Ezekiel is lead into a valley of dry bones and ordered to preach to the bones. Kenny explained to the congregation, “It’s time for a raise.”

He said that there is still racism and sexism in the world, and that it is time to stand up for justice.

“We’ve learned how to dress up death and pretend like it doesn’t exist,” he said. “This is the present condition, but not an eternal condition.”

He said that God asked Ezekiel, “Can these bones live again?”

“Only God knows the ultimate outcome of the mess you are in,” Kenny answered. “Whoever you give the authority to ultimately know is the one who ultimately has power over your life.”