Some 100 people filed down Main Street on Monday in celebration of the life and achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The annual NAACP MLK Memorial March was led by law enforcement delegations and followed by representatives of the NAACP, local schools, and others who wished to commemorate King’s legacy.
“I call him the black Moses,” said marcher Barbara Powell of Laurinburg. “You have people in the world who have gifts that God has given them, and this is one man that stood up for his rights and for the people that he loved - not only black but poor whites too.”
The procession began in the parking lot of Badcock and More Home Furnishings on Church Street, filing down Church and Main streets and coming to a stop at Bright Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church on North Main Street. For many of those marching, their walk was symbolic of steps taken since the 1960s toward unifying America.
“Every year I try to be here,” said Sylvester Moody. “Seeing everybody getting together - white, black, whoever wants to walk joins in together and has a nice time.”
The parade included a loudspeaker projecting recordings of King’s most notable speeches. At Bright Hopewell, the group doubled as the marchers were joined by over 100 more to hear a faith-based program celebrating the progress made in American society since the civil rights movement.
Keynote speaker the Rev. Dr. J. Gentile Everett, a Scotland County native who is now senior pastor of Mill Branch Baptist Church in Fairmont, spoke of his childhood during the 1960s.
“I am so honored that the Lord placed me there and allowed me to grow up as a child of the Sixties, when we had to deal with the turbulence of the civil rights movement,” said Everett. “But though I was too young to appreciate or understand what all of that was about, there was one thing that I gathered from that experience: that my father and other fathers in the community made it clear that failure was not an option. Whatever you did, whatever you didn’t do, understand that in the final analysis we expect you to rise above the pain and poverty that you see.”
Everett charged those in the crowd to rise above their beginnings, lamenting the societal putrefaction brought on by young people who resort to violence and drugs in the face of perceived social inequity. Rather, Everett suggested faith and education as preferable courses, providing the social progress of African-Americans as evidence of higher power.
“Even when we were struggling and going through all kinds of problems and vicissitudes, God was working on our behalf,” said Everett. “Just look at what God did. On December 1, 1955, there was a woman named Rosa Parks who got tired one afternoon, and she just decided she needed somewhere to sit down. I’m so glad she got tired. She’d probably been tired before, but it was something special about that day. She said I’m not going to the back, and she sat down in the front. And because Rosa Parks sat, Martin Luther King rose up and marched. If Martin Luther King hadn’t risen up to march, Jesse Jackson, my black brother, could not have run for the presidency, but because Jesse ran for it, Obama won it two times.”
Remarks from leaders of the Scotland County NAACP chapter were interspersed with choral selections from the Mill Branch Baptist Church Mass Choir.
During the program, chapter president Terence Williams presented the chapter’s first Legacy Awards to Eloise Jackson and June Harrell, in honor of their husbands the late Lawrence Jackson and Anzell Harrell. The NAACP will establish scholarship funds in honor of Harrell and Jackson.
“We want to acknowledge them because they have made their contribution not only to the community but in the field of education - back when there were just black-only and white-only schools,” said Williams. “Definitely, they have made a difference. We want to be able to expand our scholarships throughout our community, to be able to empower our children to move into post-secondary education so that they may be globally competitive to go out and earn a living and to come back and make a difference within the community.”
Williams also recognized the chapter’s former president Robert Malloy, who he replaced earlier this month, as well as new NAACP executive board members: Vice-President Herman Tyson, Executive Vice-President Mary Evans, 3rd Vice President Cleo Graham, Secretary Tony Spaulding, Assistant Secretary Felicia Manning, Treasurer Beatrice Sams, Assistant Treasurer Cynthia Pankey, Religious Affairs Chairman the Rev. Darrel “B.J.” Gibson, and Hospitality Chair Anita Hale.
St. Andrews University also celebrated King’s life with its ninth annual program in Avinger Auditorium on Monday night featuring the N.C. A&T State University Fellowship Gospel Choir.
Additional performances were given by the St. Andrews University Choir, retired local educator Allyn McLean, and St. Andrews Choir Master Ed Williams. In addition to the program, St. Andrews has celebrated Martin Luther King Day with a schoolwide day of service since 2010, encouraging students, faculty, and staff members to use their day off to aid local nonprofits.