People of all ages gather to honor Dr. King's legacy

January 15, 1995|By Traci J. Mathena | Traci J. Mathena,Special to The Sun

The event was a breakfast honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., but for more than 500 people at Martin's Westminster yesterday it could have been a grand Sunday worship service.

Hands waved in communion with the voices of the Morgan State University Gospel Choir. Amens floated on the air with the scent of sausages.

The Rev. Bernard Keels, district superintendent for the Baltimore West district of the Baltimore-Washington United Methodist Conference, was guest speaker. He told the gathering that "a better day is coming" for all who remember Dr. King's faith in God and determination to succeed -- every day, not just on his birthday anniversary, which is today.

"Truly, I give honor to God, the only one that I know that can peek through the windows of history and almost surgically touch hearts so removed and so distant and so forgotten . . . that the world would not have anything to do with them," Mr. Keels said.

Proceeds of the annual breakfast, which was sponsored by the Former Students of Robert Moton School Inc., goes toward scholarships for outstanding black students in Carroll County high schools. Tickets were $20.

Robert Moton School in Westminster, named for a black educator, was a 12-grade school, the last black school in the county. After desegregation, it became an elementary school that still bears the name.

With the money from yesterday, the former students' group will have raised $40,000 for scholarships since 1974.

"The scholarship is important for many reasons," said Del. Richard N. Dixon, a Democrat from Carroll County and president Former Students.

"The reason I work so hard on this function is to see the look on a young person's face at graduation.

"We want students to know that they can be rewarded for working hard and doing good work in high school."

In his address, Mr. Keels discussed the importance of hard work, determination and faith. He recalled being deemed "not college material" by education officials.

But with the help of the Upward Bound program and other encouragement, he went on to receive a degree, which he "laminated and made into a place mat," from Yale University.

"I don't know about you all, but I don't want nobody out there to give me nothing," Mr. Keels said.

"I feel like James Brown: 'Just open the door, and I'll get it myself. Hey!' "

The event draws people from throughout the area. Florence Graham of Gaithersburg has attended since 1987.

"They have such a great program," Ms. Graham said. "And, of course, it's the cause. And it's to honor [Dr. King], to pay homage to his contributions."

The Johnsons of Mount Airy in Frederick County also attended. Harry Johnson, his wife Robin, and his sons RhaaShan, 19, and Brian, 11, shared a table with several members of his "extended family."

"This is something in terms of keeping the dream alive," Mr. Johnson said. "We are here to remember and celebrate.

"And hearing the choir sing is like listening to the word that Martin Luther King himself would have said."

"I wanted to do something in memory of him, something rather than just going outside or watching TV," said RhaaShan Johnson, a freshman political science major at Campbell University in North Carolina. "I wanted to do something to honor him."

People should focus on Dr. King's teachings, said Brian Johnson.

"He meant that people should be equal and everybody should have the same chances," he said. "There are all types of people here today, and they have the same chances as we do."

For Perry Jones III, 13, the fact that blacks and whites sat together fulfilled one part of Dr. King's dream.

"At least we've come that far," said Perry, who lives in Union Bridge.

Mr. Dixon said he was happy the breakfasts have attracted more young people in the past few years.

"Basically, to people younger than 25 or 30 years old, he is someone they read about in books," Mr. Dixon said. "To me, he's something I experienced."

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