By Justin Jones, Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 —
The 12th Annual Unity Prayer Breakfast in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was designed to be a tribute to the great civil rights leader while urging the community to continue carrying out his vision for America.
The breakfast, which is held each year the Saturday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, was presented by the Stanly County Chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
It was listed in the program that one of King’s speeches be read as a tribute. The people that filled the E.E. Waddell Center likely weren’t prepared for just how moving King’s “I have a Dream” speech could be recited.
“The negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination,” said Tyler Robinson, resembling King’s speech.
As Robinson carried on, the crowd’s connection became more transparent as some said “Amen,” nodded and shouted.
“I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers,” Robinson said with growing conviction.
“I have a dream today.”
By the time Robinson had finished a condensed version of King’s famous speech which was originally given from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, people were already clapping with each “Free at Last!” as he concluded before rising to their feet.
Although each person was familiar with the speech, it was still as moving as ever to the audience.
“As I sat there, I closed my eyes and I reflected back to the day Dr. King actually gave that speech. And through Tyler, some of his wording and pronunciation, his wording sounded just like Dr. King. I thank you, young man, you keep on, keeping on,” said Brenda James-Stanback before introducing the keynote speaker, Antonio Blue, the Mayor of Dobbins Heights in Richmond County.
“I’m so honored to be here today and attempt to speak on a legacy of a man,” Blue said.
“The subject is the power of a dream.”
Blue talked about King’s history and how he led a movement in the south at a time when the African-American people were greatly oppressed and abused, both verbally and physically. All of those things were not enough to keep Dr. King from spreading his message of justice and peace.
“What Dr. King was for right, he was for justice, he was for peace for all mankind. He made a statement once. He said ‘It’s hard to like somebody when they siccing dogs on you and put you in jail, but God said love everybody.’ We don’t have to like them, but we got to love them,” Blue said.
He then spoke about the power of King’s dream and how he believed in it enough to die for it.
“Without a vision, our people will perish. Dr. King dedicated his life to love, to justice between fellow human beings and he died for a cause that he believed in,” he said.
Blue talked about the power of a dream by pointing to testimonies of those in attendance.
“Judge (Kevin) Bridges, when you started off and you graduated from law school, there was a dream. It started off as a dream,” he said.
“And Gene McLaurin. I think it was the same thing when you became a mayor some 16 years ago, and later now, you’re a state senator. It all started out as a dream.”
He ended his speech with a challenge. One to remember looking back, but pushing forward in their commitment to justice for all people.
“As we look back, how far have we come from 1968? There’s a question always pondered. What’s different in us now and them back then?” he asked.
“The commitment they had, why don’t we have that now?”
To keep that commitment, Blue said, you have to wake up from your dream and make it a reality.
“What you have to do when you dream, every now and then, you have to wake up and put some action behind that dream. That’s what you got to do. A little hard work.”
The Unity Prayer Breakfast is the largest NAACP gathering each year in Stanly County and is led by MLK Program Chairmen of the NAACP and Albemarle City Councilman Dexter Townsend.