Drew County celebrates MLK Day with drive thru breakfast; virtual ceremony

Like most holidays and celebrations since the arrival of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and the normal week of activities looked a little different this year with events transformed to drive through service or virtual celebrations.

The week kicked off with the Drew County NAACP Branch #6042 hosting a drive through prayer breakfast at Holmes Chapel Presbyterian Church, 527 East McCloy Street, on Monday, Jan. 18, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. followed by a Martin Luther King Jr. Virtual Day of Celebration.

Sheena Garrard was the Master of Ceremonies and welcomed participants online to the celebration.

“This celebration is to honor Dr. King and what he stood for,” said Garrard. “Dr. King was a leader of the people. He never chose fear but chose courage and determination when fighting for civil rights in the face of oppression, ignorance and violence.

He stood by his goal of providing rights for all through non-violent protests. We encourage all of you to be steadfast and encourage. Our theme for this evening is, ‘We are done dying,’ and to live up to that theme we must change within ourselves, our city and our nation.”

The evening kicked off with everyone joining in to sing the Negro National Anthem, followed with a greeting to viewers by Monticello Alderman Al Peer.

“The City of Monticello, along with me, would like to welcome you all and participants in the legacy of keeping the dream alive,” said Peer in welcoming celebrants. “NAACP, MLK commissioners, keep loving because the world can’s beat God’s given because God is love.”

Scripture and prayer was then offered by Dr. Christopher Allen.

The scripture shared was pulled from Luke 10 verse 27, “So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

During his prayer, Allen prayed to remember to stand fast in God and to trust in him and to remember to “love our neighbor. To bless this nation and to be with those who have COVID.”

NAACP Drew County Youth President Kamauri Trotter followed Allen in welcoming the community and reminding everyone to stay strong and steadfast the way Martin Luther King Jr. did in his fight for civil rights.

“As many of you know we are facing some challenging times, we have all had to adjust to social distancing and utilizing technology more. I encourage all of you to be steadfast, keep the faith and press forward just like the late Martin Luther King, Jr. did for all of us.”

After a performance by the NAACP Drew County MLK choir, Stacey Smith introduced guest speaker Pastor Bianca Canley.

“I have the privilege of introducing the speaker of the night,” began Smith. “At age 15 she was ordained to be a preacher in the AME church. Bianca graduated from Oral Roberts University. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication. Bianca also researched in the areas of youth family ministry and identity management in biracial children. She served as the Oral Roberts Chaplain leadership program as a floor chaplain and later as a graduate assistant for the program. Bianca also works at Shorter College University.  Bianca is a friend, a leader and she is also a child of God. The next voice you will hear is that of Bianca. Open your ears to abide by her words.”

After a performance by the MLK Choir, Canley took the stage with a song.

“Hold on, Just a little while longer,” she sang. “Everything will be alright. Pray on, just a little while longer. Fight on just a little while longer, with everything in you.

“Some Kings rule their kingdoms lying down, surrounded by soft cushions and fans, but his King stood strong, stood proud, stood tall,” she began. “When the driver told Rosa, move to the back of the bus. When the waiter told students, we don’t serve your kind. When the Mayor told voters, your vote don’t count. When the sheriff told marchers, get off our streets using fire hoses, police dogs and cattle prods to move them along; this Kings stood strong. This King stood proud, stood tall. Speaking of peace and love, and children hand in hand, free at last, free at last. When some yelled for violence, for angry revenge, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, he stood his ground.

“He stood with peace,” she continued, “preaching peace. And when some spit out hate, he stood there smiling, spreading love until it rolled like the sea across the land sweeping away Jim Crow. Breaking down the walls, ringing the bell joyfully for freedom until, standing on the mountain top they shot him coldly hoping to see him fall. Hoping to put him away to bring him low. But this King, even in death, even today, stands strong, stands proud stands still. And we remember that you can kill the dreamer but you can’t kill the dream.

“Our theme this year is that we are done dying,” she said. “Whether you know it or not black people are dying of COVID at twice the rate of white Americans. One hundred and sixty-four black people were killed by police in the first eight months of 2020, which means at least one of our black brothers and sisters were being killed every week. Rashad Brooks, George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Philando Castile are just some of the names.”

Canley was followed by an appeal of membership and the presentation of MLK Heroes,

Drew County Judge Damon Lampkin, for his community service as a judge of Drew County, being a member of NAACP scholarship committee and being involved in the community for so many years was recognized as the MLK Hero. He has been a member of the NAACP since 2014.

“Thank you or inviting me here,” said Lampkin. “It is an honor and it is an honor to be a member of NAACP and what they stand for. A lot of people may not know it, they may think this is just an organization for colored people; what they represent, represents everyone, what is good for them is also good for me and I am proud to be a member of the NAACP and I am going to continue to be a member for the rest of my life.”

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