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MLK speakers rally for action

POSTED: January 20, 2010 9:57 a.m.
Photo by Denise Etheridge/

MLK Jr. Observance Association President the Rev. A.L. Jackson, far right, and association member Ken Howard present awards to local residents on Monday. From left are Victoria Allen, Stephen Mullice, Janice Guyton, who accepted on behalf of her son, NFL linebacker Gary Guyton, Dr. Clemontine Washington, mayor of Midway, and State Rep. Al Williams.

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Local leaders challenged Liberty County residents to get involved in their community, to unify as a force for positive change during the 2010 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Service at Bradwell Institute in Hinesville on Monday.
“This year’s theme, ‘Back to the Basics…Doing the Right Things,’ charges us to remember that the dream of which Dr. King spoke cannot be achieved by a single act, moment or individual,” wrote Dr. Alvin Jackson, president of the Liberty County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Association. “His call to action — to create a society where one’s character, not color, would determine individual merit — will be achieved through diligence, patience and a strong commitment to serving our community, our country and our world.”
The association held a four-day observance of King’s birthday Jan. 15-18, which culminated with the commemorative service. A parade was held just prior to the service.
The Liberty County Martin Luther King Mass Choir, made up of singers from local churches, and the Liberty County Martin Luther King Youth Choir performed. Awards were given to the top three floats in the parade competition and a number of individuals received awards for their community involvement.
State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, received an award for serving as parade grand marshal.
Two trailblazers were named: Dr. Clemontine Washington, the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of Midway, and Gary Guyton Jr., a Bradwell Institute graduate who plays professional football for the New England Patriots.
Stephen Mullice received a civic award for his lengthy and varied community involvement. Mullice has served as cubmaster and assistant cubmaster of Boy Scout Cub Pack 581 for more than 20 years. He is an active member of the Beach Hill Missionary Baptist Church, Limerick Lodge 437 F&AM and Limerick Chapter 336 Order of the Eastern Star. Mullice also serves as chairman for the Liberty County Board of Elections and the Coastal Electric Membership Corporation Board of Directors in Midway.
Victoria Allen received a committee award for her work on this year’s association events.
Dignitaries including Williams, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, 3rd ID deputy commander general-rear, Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver and Liberty County School Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer each gave their perspectives on King’s achievements and ways in which his vision could be realized. Most also offered prayer for the people of Haiti, following the island nation’s devastating earthquake last week, and encouraged people to donate to legitimate emergency relief efforts.
“Thank God for those people who have taken this day as a day of service, and not just as a day off,” Williams said.
The state representative urged his listeners to help those less fortunate, saying “something is upside down in our country,” stressing there is a widening gap between rich and poor. He added more work needs to be done to abolish social ills, particularly in a wealthy nation where many people still go hungry and are homeless.
“When you leave here today, do something for somebody else,” Williams said.
Thomas said he and other minorities who hold elected office “would not be here without Dr. King.”
The mayor expressed gratitude to King and his countless, and often unknown, followers who helped usher in civil rights.
Thomas, too, said area residents “Must help our friends down in Haiti.” He also asked the audience to remember American military members serving across the globe.
Phillips said soldiers fight for America’s freedoms, and promote “the blessings of equality.”
“Equality is such a commonplace thing,” he said. “Too many of us take it for granted.”
McIver echoed Williams’ theme of unity, saying every individual must be responsible and “do the right thing.”
“We are one. We are a people. We are God’s children,” he said. “When we’re divided there’s very little we can accomplish.”
McIver reminded the crowd that equality was not shared by everyone 40 years ago, including here in Liberty County.
“There was a time we watched from the side of the courthouse,” he said, referring to black people who were prevented from voting. “We couldn’t drink from the (same) water fountain (as white people).”
Scherer charged the community to help its educators teach children of all races honesty, respect, courage and responsibility.
“Every child is born as a blank slate,” she said. “Children are not born with prejudice and hatred in their hearts. These are learned traits and behaviors.”
The Rev. Hermon Scott, who presided over the service, said local residents also were affected by Haiti’s tragedy “in some way or another.”
“Be careful where you give your money (to help Haiti),” Scott said. “We want your money to go where it’s supposed to go, to where it’s needed.”
He suggested people donate to reputable organizations, such as area churches, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
Licentiate Ashley Morris, pastor of St. James AME Church in Jones, gave the commemorative speech. Morris, 24, is the daughter of Katie C. Johnson and is a native of Hinesville.
The passionate, young pastor said much has been accomplished because of King and the civil rights movement, but said looking at the world today, “I would say the dream has still not come to pass.”
Morris said America’s youth have wandered away from traditional morals. She thinks there are too many young men and women who have not been taught to respect themselves and others. Morris said the Internet has been misused as a tool for pedophiles to victimize children. And, she said, too often young men find themselves in jail, not knowing how to make better life choices.
“It’s time to reclaim our communities right now,” Morris said. “Your child is my child. Together, we can make a difference.”

 

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