LAURINBURG — Scotland County’s final Martin Luther King Day event was not the first to be forward-thinking, as some 300 people crowded St. Andrews University’s Avinger Auditorium for a joint celebration between St. Andrews and Fayetteville State University.
Both St. Andrews President Paul Baldasare and FSU Chancellor James A. Anderson spoke, charging those present to dedicate their lives to effecting positive change.
King’s work did not end with his assassination, Baldasare said, and 45 years later, it is not yet finished.
“We see progress has been made since his death in 1968, and it sometimes appears much easier than we know it was, facing the staggering odds that he did and with followers that were at times divided and dispirited, and many national leaders and organizations determined to see that he failed,” he said. “Tonight, as we celebrate the remarkable life of Dr. King, let’s not forget that the American dream still eludes many of our friends and neighbors. Let’s take the inspiration of today’s celebration and acts of service as further evidence that there’s still work to be done.”
Both schools’ choirs performed, with the Fayetteville State choir under the direction of Denise Murchison Payton and accompanied by Amanda Virelles performing three spiritual pieces: two, including “I’ll Stand,” a Capella in pre-emancipation style. The Fayetteville and St. Andrews choirs then united in performing “I Dream a World.”
Doni Holloway, a Scotland Early College High School student, recited an excerpt from the “Drum Major Instinct” sermon that King gave a scant two months before his assassination. In it, King brushes aside his international fame and commendations as “shallow things,” stating that upon his death he wishes to be remembered only for loving and serving others.
In his remarks, Anderson recalled a meeting with “Roots” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” author Alex Haley, as well as, at the age of 12, an encounter with King. A homeless orphan at the time, Anderson primarily attended the March on Washington as a venue to beg for money.
But he credited that brief interlude — King’s donation of a few dollars and question of his intent to change the world — with altering the course of his life.
“Sometimes you never know when you’re going to be placed at a point in history, and when you are, you’d better be ready to learn from it,” Anderson said. “I was 12 and I couldn’t understand all of his words, but he could visualize things so well that even at that age you understood his message.”
Anderson mused about what would have come from a meeting between King and Nelson Mandela, lamenting the loss of that opportunity.
“But now that they’ve both passed, they expect you, you right there, to change the world,” he told the audience. “Stop texting, stop doing silly stuff, stop wasting time. Change the world.”