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About 200 brave cold for MLK Day program

Dale Ash was presented a community service award by Karean Reynolds, at right back.
Wayne Johnson, left, presented a community service award to Curtis Tucker.
Holy Community Church’s float won first place in the MLK Day parade.

News Staff Writer

Despite stiff, frigid winds that cut across Houston Avery Park throughout the event, about 200 people — most but not all in coats, jackets or other cold-weather clothing — braved the elements to attend Atmore’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day program, held Monday, January 17.
Most came to honor the slain Civil Rights icon, and to hear remarks from Atmore Municipal Court Judge Karean Reynolds and several other speakers. But more than a dozen ignored the MLK program to be the first in line for the hot food being offered by Rainbows for Kids several yards from the speaker’s pavilion.
Sandra Gray of Concerned Citizens of Atmore, who acted as Mistress of Ceremony, took brief note of that in her introductory remarks.
“We want you to enjoy this day,” Gray said, “not to just eat, drink and be merry but to decide this day what you’re going to do for your community. We’ve got to stick together and do what’s right because the time is right.”
After the Pledge of Allegiance and a recorded version of the National Anthem, Bishop Wayne Johnson of Emmanuel Faith Center, who was introduced as CCOA’s new president, addressed the crowd.
The local preacher stressed that faith — in King’s message of unity and in the Gospel — is the key to the “unity in the community” sought by the group.
“Old keys never unlock new doors,” he said. “When Dr. King had a door that needed to be opened, he went to the Lord and asked for a key. The Lord gave him a key through prayer and understanding that the door that needed opening was through doing what he needed to do, without violence. That took courage and commitment. We’re here today to understand that new mindsets and new thoughts take us into the places we need to go.”
Paulette German delivered a recital of several of King’s quotes, then Reynolds issued his keynote address, also calling for community unification, although he said injustices still exist here.
“When we think of Martin Luther King, we think of unity, things to better our community ,” he said. “I am an attorney, and one reason I became an attorney is because there are injustices that are happening in our community that need to be addressed. “We need people who understand those injustices to help lead our community to a better place.”
He also remembered the day’s honoree.
“Dr. King is not just a person we idolize,” Reynolds said. “We idolize his vision, all the things he stood for. I’m pretty sure that if Dr. King was here today, he would not want us to celebrate him, but to celebrate the cause. Everything he was fighting for, we need to keep fighting for, to put our communities in a place that’s better than it has been.
“Martin Luther King was more than just a man. He was a visionary, and he had a lot of good people from the communities who stood behind him. He changed not just the African American community, he changed the Caucasian community, the Indian community … He changed lot of communities through his actions and courage.”
Empowerment Tabernacle Pastor Daryl North, who was grand marshal for the MLK Day Parade that preceded the program, also talked of a unified community.
“I am grateful for the mindset our city of Atmore is developing,” he said. “We have come a long way. Things have gotten better; things can be better.”
Nicole Jones of Prima Girls, a faith-based mentoring program, also spoke briefly, and a trio of Holy Community Praise Dancers performed a dance number.
“We much teach our children to be all they can be,” Jones said. “We must break the generational cycles that are negatively affecting our children. We must make them aware of their strengths, give them a chance to dream.”
Before program attendees were dismissed to join those already in line for food, Reynolds presented a community service award to Dale Ash of Atmore’s Pepsi Cola Bottling Company, and Wayne Johnson presented a community service award to Curtis Tucker, the founder of Rainbows for Kids.
Reynolds praised Ash’s support for her hometown, saying Ash “has been one of our greatest advocates in the community,” while Gray noted that Tucker “goes all over Alabama and Florida, feeding people,” including Pensacola’s homeless.
Gray expressed appreciation to Barbara McCoy, who spearheaded the effort to have the historical marker replaced at the former site of Escambia County Training School and announced that the local chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, as well as Emmanuel Faith Center and Atmore Urban Development assisted with putting the event together.