Flo Johnston Faith in Focus
January 24, 2014
Although local events celebrating the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday are always billed as “community” events, I found the three I attended lacking in diversity and falling short of representing the community.
With the possible exception of the Monday night event at St. Andrews University, the two I attended at local churches were attended primarily by members of the black community.
Of course, King was a black man and a hero in the black community, but after 28 years since his birthday became a federal holiday, is it too much to think that all Americans can honor the legacy of a man who gave his life for ideas Americans talk about all the time: equality, opportunity, justice?
A significant moment for me during the Monday night event, a full house at Avinger Auditorium on the St. Andrews campus, was the presentation of MLK’s “Drum Major for Justice” speech by Doni Holloway, a Scotland County Early College High School student. His interpretation was excellent and the dead silence right before the applause broke out was dramatic.
The highlight of this celebration was the joint performance by the choirs from St. Andrews and Fayetteville State of “I Dream a World,” composed by Andre J. Thomas with lyrics by Langston Hughes.
The event marked the first collaboration between the two universities on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, although both institutions have held their own celebrations before.
In what proved to be simply taking up space on the program agenda was the “Acknowledgment of Special Guests.” This is the time an audience expects to see city and county governmental officials like members of city council, county boards and school boards.
Instead, it was an awkward moment when I saw only one school board member stand. Let me hasten to say, however, that Scotland County Sheriff Shep Jones was present and acknowledged at both the church gatherings I attended.
Obvious from news coverage of the Monday events, the march and subsequent gathering at Bright Hopewell Church included some public officials and some diversity, but it would have been nice to have seen a sprinkling of them Monday night.
And before I give up the soap box, let me add one more observation: Where were all the preachers, ministers and pastors at the celebrations? I saw only a few at the two I attended, and it was so nice to meet you.
Thanks to St. Andrews and Fayetteville State for their collaborative effort to make MLK Day in Laurinburg a time to remember Dr. King whose life and legacy can still inspire and encourage us all to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.
And special thanks and appreciation to the 400 St. Andrews students who spent the holiday volunteering around the city and county doing everything from clearing trash and debris from roadsides to socializing with elderly residents at Scottish Pines.