WESTMINSTER — Strains of "We Shall Overcome" rang out from more than 500 voices aspeople stood proudly and clasped hands firmly in tribute to the Rev.Martin Luther King Jr.
Led by the 10-member Bowie State University Gospel Choir, people swayed gently as they sang the standard of thecivil rights movement in memory of a man who gave his life to it.
Tears streamed down many faces as memories rushed in with each powerful refrain. As they sang "We'll walk hand in hand," the crowd raised joined hands high.
A floor-to-ceiling banner with King's likeness, painted by Theresa Franklin of here, hung on the wall of Martin's Westminster Saturday for Saturday's fifth-annual King memorial breakfast, organized by the Former Students of Robert Moton School.
"We like to make a joyful noise unto the Lord," said Del. Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, president of the organization. "And, the sellout crowd helps fund our scholarship program."
Dixon said the organizationhas awarded more than $31,000 in scholarships to black students since 1974.
"I have seen too many kids unable to go to college for lack of money," said Maynard Hurd, a former director of Frederick Community College. "We miss a lot of them, and this organization helps."
Dixon said he offers a similar answer to those who ask why the awards only go to black students.
"It's important for a graduating young black student to receive recognition in a class of 500 others," he said. "No other group has had to make the sacrifices in the past thatwe have. These scholarships are in memory of our forefathers and their sacrifices."
A graduate of Yale University and Harvard DivinitySchool, the Rev. Frank M. Reid III injected a note of levity when he
introduced himself with "I is here."
Reid, the pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore and the guest speaker, praised the organization's efforts while recalling many of its sacrifices.
"Out of the hell hole of segregation, some positive things have happened," said the pastor. "Twenty years ago, when Robert Moton alumni formed their organization, who would have thought one of the members would be in the State House representing a county whose population is only 2 percent black?"
Reid said the struggle continues, and pointed to King's example as a source of courage to meet today's challenges.
"Today, we are not struggling against racism in itsobvious forms, but we still struggle against it in its institutionalforms," he said.
"Dr. King had the steel in his backbone and the courage in his heart to start a movement that changed America. He hadthe courage to meet the challenge. What about you?"
He assured the audience that God did not stop working because King died.
"In death, Martin Luther King is bigger than George Wallace ever was; he ismore powerful than any president," he said. "Keep your trust in God,and he will make a way for you.
Reid also encouraged members to trust and help one another, a theme echoed when Mary Mal Holmes of theBowie choir sang, "If I Could Help Somebody, My Living Shall Not be in Vain."
John Lewis, a former Moton student, said he attends the breakfast each year in a show of support for King and "all he did forequality."
"Anyone who thinks there is no racial prejudice in Carroll County is an optimist," said Lewis of New Windsor.
Helen Butler said she has seen many changes for the better during her 40-year teaching career here.
Now retired and living in Baltimore County, Butler said she was "pleased with Carroll County's progress toward theAfro-American race."