“A Man and His Dream.”
Posters with these words and the image of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hung high at Morning Star Baptist Church in Fairmont on Sunday afternoon.
Members of the community came together for a birthday celebration for the great African American civil rights leader, born Jan. 15, 1929, who focused on nonviolent protests and Christian beliefs. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The Rev. Robert T. Buckner, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Everettville in Monongalia County, explained that the Marion County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People organizes this service annually at Morning Star Baptist Church.
He also serves as president of the Marion County NAACP, and encouraged people to join this respected civil rights organization to have their voices be heard.
“We need each other,” he said. “There is power in unity.”
A Community Celebration Committee planned the birthday event in the past, but many of the same people are involved in the efforts today. Buckner, who was previously associate minister of Morning Star Baptist, commented that this program is more than just a celebration for King’s birthday.
“One of the critical things is keeping the information and the communication flowing to the next generation. Otherwise it will be a great disconnect,” he said. “This is part of the issue that we have today. Because of some of the advancements of the American civil rights, people think it’s always been like that and that there’s no need to struggle. Well, the struggle’s not completely over. It’s just shifted focus.”
The theme of Sunday’s program was “Where Do We Go from Here?” and the keynote speaker was Tiffany Walker Samuels, executive director of United Way of Marion County since January 2008.
Samuels, a Fairmont native, graduated from Fairmont Senior High School and continued her education at West Virginia University, University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom, and George Washington University.
“This is my most honorable moment in my professional career,” she told the crowd Sunday. “This is my moment to say ‘thank you’ to the community for making me.”
Samuels, who was baptized at Morning Star Baptist, said so many people have supported her and allowed her to accomplish what she has today.
She told that crowd that to move forward, people have to look back some. King spoke about the importance of rediscovering lost values, and he based his sermons on the needs of humanity and the power of love. “Where Do We Go from Here?” was the name of one of his speeches.
Working with the United Way, Samuels said she knows the needs of the community. She sees that blatant racism still exists in many ways.
“Our community must become indignant about our current state,” she said.
Samuels believes communities need to go back to having a close network of family, friends and churches that support children as they grow up, and also mentor young people to make sure they earn their education. Education and career training are essential for future generations, and building healthy, safe communities is also a priority, she said.
Samuels said 612 MAC is a jewel in the community of Fairmont, and needs more volunteers and involvement.
“Let’s get to work on rebuilding our communities,” she said.
Samuels emphasized that it’s not enough to just feel sympathetic to these issues or to passively ignore them. She encouraged people to reach out to the needy every day either by giving money, donating items or offering time.
“The bottom line is to share your love,” she said.
The focus must be on family, health, education and caring for one another, Samuels said. She thanked the audience for doing whatever they can to change the lives of those in their communities.
Pastor Wesley Dobbs of Morning Star Baptist Church said that through Jesus Christ, King gave everything that he had. He expressed the hope that King’s dream will always be a reality for all people.
Young people joined in the service Sunday to offer their own wisdom and talents through speech and song.
The youth who participated talked about the dreams that everyone has, and how love exists between people today because of all that King and his supporters did. They also spoke about looking toward and thinking about the future, saying that their communities have come very far but there’s still work to do. They emphasized making justice a reality for all of God’s children and loving one another.
The Umojah Voices of Joy choir provided inspiring music throughout the program.
Email Jessica Borders at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.
“A Man and His Dream.”
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