Speaker calls for unity in local, state, world communities
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Keynote speaker Marlo Young not only praised the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Monday, January 16, MLK Day Program, she also accented the theme of this year’s tribute to the slain Civil Rights icon, “The Beloved Community.”
Young, mental health services coordinator for the Escambia County School System, used Bible verses and King’s words to deliver an impassioned plea for unity — in the local community, across the state and nation, and throughout the world.
“It is our business to love our community and to be the difference we want to see in our community,” Young said from the podium in the sanctuary of Emmanuel’s Faith Center. “Dr. King believed that a beloved community was one where all people are valued, respected, and treated with dignity. He loved his community, his race, and people in general.”
Young explained the difference between a neighborhood and a community.
“A community gives you a sense of belonging, it takes you in and nourishes you,” she said. “It embraces you and makes you feel loved. We must love our communities; we must invest in our communities, such as our time, our knowledge, our talents and our tears.
“Don’t be ashamed of your community, because to be ashamed of your community is to be ashamed of yourself and where you come from. When people ask if there’s anything good that comes from Atmore, Alabama, I say, ‘yes, you and I’.”
Young’s address was the highlight of a program that included remarks from several people, including Emmanuel’s Faith Center Pastor Bishop Wayne Johnson and Atmore Mayor Jim Staff. There was also a recounting by former Atmore Community Hospital nurse Urla McCants Boggan of her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement.
Boggan recalled that she met Dr. King, as well as Civil Rights pioneers John Lewis, Andrew Young, Maynard Jackson (the first black mayor of Atlanta) and other leaders during her time in Georgia, where she organized pickets and performed other services for the movement.
EFC’s pastor and Grand Marshal of this year’s MLK Day Parade, Bishop Wayne Johnson, also spoke, as did Mayor Jim Staff, who sat with city council members Shawn Lassiter and Eunice Johnson during the earliest stages of the program.
Northview High School’s Navy JRTC color guard presented the colors for the event, and members of Escambia County Middle School’s Peer Helpers program, directed by counselor Nicole Jones, recited various of King’s quotes.
When Jones, who also heads up the Prima Girls program for young girls, later stated that, “Martin Luther King Jr. marched so the young ladies of our community can have a seat at the table,” those words seemed to have a significant impact on several attendees.
That group included Jamel Frye, who brought his four young daughters — Janell, Jailyne, Journee and Jakiah — so they could get more exposure to the importance of King and his work on behalf of people of color.
The assembled crowd of about 100 people of all ages and races joined W.J. Grissett in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” between Staff’s remarks and Johnson’s, and — after Sandra Gray had introduced each member of Concerned Citizens of Atmore and each had spoken — those still on hand joined in singing “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the Civil Rights effort.
Young pointed out near the end of her address that King had completed his mission, that it was time for others to carry forth his message of non-violent societal change.
“We can’t let our living be in vain,” she said. “We may not do all the great things Dr. King has done, but we need to have helped make an impact in somebody’s life for the greater good.
“Dr. King has passed the torch for others to carry. The battle never ends until God calls us home. We have to keep Dr. King’s dream alive. His mission was complete, and the torch of hope, love, peace and equality is still being carried today.”
Click link below to view photo gallery