Local MLK Celebration chairman explains significance of tributes to civil rights icon
BY ASHLEY THOMAS
‘‘There never was a moment in American history more honorable and more inspiring than the pilgrimage of clergymen and laymen of every race and faith pouring into Selma to face danger at the side of its embattled Negroes.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
A commemorative march bringing together people of all backgrounds, races and faiths is scheduled in Daytona Beach on Monday, the official Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
The march, which will begin at 9 a.m. from Allen Chapel Baptist Church, is reflective of the many marches led over the years by King, says the Rev. John Long, pastor of Tubman-King Community Church and chairman of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration for Florida.
“The commemorative march is so that people who were not around during the time when the movement was at its height can get a sense of what people in the movement then went through. A taste of what a march is like. We march down the street, singing freedom songs,” explained Long. “It is a way of memorializing the march and the movement.
“We are so divided, so sectarian in our issues, but in reality as Martin and many other leaders tried to show us, there are certain lines where these divisions stop. Economics isn’t just a Black or White issue. Social justice isn’t just Black or White. Racial justice is not just Black or White. There are issues that they didn’t have to deal with back then but they did very well with what they were doing,’’ Long remarked.
The pastor remarked on the importance of alliances with others.
“What we do is reflective of what took place in the ’50s and ’60s, but also calls for those of us here today to emulate the kind of cross-cultural allegiances and alliances that made the movement so powerful,” Long said.
He reflected how several churches in the Volusia county area, including those that are a part of the Black Clergy Alliance are set to participate. A service will be held following the march at Greater Friendship Baptist Church, which is open to everyone.
“This is an interfaith worship service. It’s not just Christian. In fact we have the Imam from the Islamic Center of Daytona on the program. With every succeeding year, we try to expand it,” Long shared.
Important for student
Rondalyn Dickens, a graduating senior from Spruce Creek High School and one of this year’s scholarship recipients, is looking forward to the march.
“I think the march is important because it represents history. It is an act that shows we can unite as people and show that we are one and we deserve to be treated equally.
I think it shows that we have come far, but there is still a ways to go.”
The Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration for Florida will award six scholastic scholarships to deserving seniors at the annual scholarship banquet to be held Jan. 16.
The MLK committee will award $1,000 each to Dickens, Alexia Johnson and Nathaniel Anthon from Spruce Creek High School, Daeshonna McBride and Timothy Merrick from New Smyrna Beach High School and Sean Hyacinth from Mainland High School.
The academic scholarships required each student to write an essay on the legacy of King as well as Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, with one scholarship being made available to a student who didn’t necessarily have exceptional academic achievements but had dreams of attending college after graduation.
“With the research that I did, I found out more about the reasons on why King did what he did and his methodologies, especially during the time where African-Americans were very violent in the North. In the South the only way they were going to achieve civil rights was because of nonviolence. With lynchings, Jim Crow Laws and segregation. In order to fight violence, they had to fight with non-violence,” explained Dickens.
“As an African-American, when you are facing difficult times, you have to remain calm and appreciate when you are treated fairly and also recognize when you aren’t treated fairly. “To be at your best ability at all times, stay in character and be supportive of your community,’’ she added.
Commissioner Patrick Henry, who participates in the annual King events, reflected on their significance.
“We stand on the shoulders of Martin Luther King Jr. as well as other local and national civil rights activists,” he remarked. “They have paved the way for others to be in positions that they are in today.’’