By: Kathryn Schiliro
Photos By: Angelina Bellebuono
The Morgan County Branch, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held their annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Religious Program Monday night.
Around 100 were in attendance at the event, held this year at Springfield Baptist Church. Representatives from Mt. Zion, Flat Rock, Thankful, St. Paul A.M.E., and Springfield churches were present.
“Thank you for coming out to celebrate the great legacy that is and was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” local NAACP President Laura Butler told the crowd.
Following the traditional prayer, song and reading of scripture, the evening’s keynote speaker – Rev. Cedric Cotton, pastor of St. Paul A.M.E. – took the pulpit.
Citing Matthew 17: 14-19, Cotton likened the story of Jesus’ coming down from the mountains and healing a boy, a case rejected by the overwhelmed church, to King’s journey towards equality for all.
“All that I can’t do, the Lord can,” Cotton urged the crowd.
He began to recount the story of King’s last journey – late 1967, early 1968 – spent “involved in what they called the ‘Poor People’s Campaign,’” Cotton said. King and his movement were non-violently working toward equal rights, equal housing, equal healthcare – “Yes, even 42 years ago we were campaigning for health care. I assure you, all of God’s children should be under some healthcare plan,” Cotton said – and equal school facilities for the most poor and in need.
King was called to Tennessee, to the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike.
This would be his last journey, last campaign, last work; King was assassinated on the evening of April 4, 1968, as he was leaving his motel room.
“[King] surrendered himself to history,” Cotton said. “The dreamer was silenced, but the dream still lives.”
Cotton urged the crowd to “keep the dream alive,” assuring those in attendance of the relevance, even today, of the 101-year-old NAACP and other, similar organizations. He questioned whether Haiti was meant to happen, a chance “to allow humans to show their humanity.” He spoke of the power of God in people’s lives.
To “activate the power of God,” Cotton had three requirements: develop a relationship with God, be resistant to worldly whims and urges, and be resilient.
Then, Bobby Mackey, education director for the local Boys & Girls Club, delivered King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which the Civil Rights leader originally gave on Aug. 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was at that moment, with eyes closed, that those in attendance were transported back to that day by Mackey’s delivery of the famous address.
The Morgan County Branch, NAACP is currently holding a membership drive.
“There was a dream, but the dream is dying,” local NAACP Vice President Deacon James Edwards urged the crowd to join. “If we don’t meet quota, they’ll pull our charter… You should see counties that don’t have the NAACP in them.”
Local NAACP meetings are held the first Thursday of each month at 6 p.m., and administration is trying to drum up representatives to attend local government meetings.
“It is imperative that we go and get informed because, guess what, that’s where the decisions happen,” NAACP Secretary Sheila Tolbert said.
The local NAACP is planning to hold a Founder’s Day event on Friday, Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Jackson Grove church as well as a Black History Program on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 4:30 p.m. at New Enon church.