Foursome honored for ‘Continuing the Dream’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 21, 2004

AHOSKIE – Roanoke-Chowan area citizens gathered here last week at Bearfield Elementary School to remember the contributions of late civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

They came to recognize those who have followed in the footsteps of a man who dared to dream beyond the hate and ignorance of the racial discrimination and segregation of the 1950’s to challenge others to strive toward an America where children could be judged by the &uot;content of their character&uot; and &uot;not by the color of their skin.&uot;

The historical and cultural impact King had on the country was so profound and his influence so far reaching that contemporaries have sought to preserve the ideals, values and truths he so poignantly represented, to this day.

The sixth annual &uot;Continuing the Dream&uot; presented by Hertford County Public Schools is a reflection of that desire.

As the ceremonies commenced, Joan McCullough, Hertford County Public Schools (HCPS) Teacher of the Year and mistress of ceremonies, offered warm greetings and invited comments from Chairman of the HCPS Board of Education, J. Wendell Hall, and Superintendent Dennis Deloatch who praised the commitment of area citizens in promoting unity and racial harmony.

&uot;The ones who are being honored here tonight have, in their own way, demonstrated a commitment to carry on the dream of Dr. King within the community,&uot; said Deloatch,&uot; regardless of color, economic status or societal position.&uot;

Assistant Superintendent J.Earl Norfleet introduced Alfred W. Kwasikpui, Chief District Court Justice as a guest speaker at the event.

Kwasikpui holds a degree in Urban Politics from Shaw University, a Law Doctorate from Wake Forest University, served as an attorney with the United States Army and was the first African American judge to be elected to District 6B.

Kwasikpui expressed his gratefulness for being invited to speak and that he couldn’t help but to be &uot;reinvigorated&uot; by the commitment of parents to come out to this event to help educate the children who are &uot;truly innocent&uot; and asked all those within the sound of his voice to consider what Dr. King might say about the health of race relations in the R-C area if he could take a walk along its streets. &uot;I think he would feel the need to make a landmark address,&uot; he said.

Kwasipui highlighted the increase in crime in young people and petitioned parents to head off the growing violence by getting involved. &uot;Find out who your kids are hanging out with, listen to the music they listen to, watch the videos; all they are talking about is bullets, guns, sex, money and fighting.

&uot;They’re motivated by anger and they don’t smile. We as parents have to take action before they come to the courts. We have to get into their minds and understand what they’re going through. You gotta show them that the world is not going to give them anything.&uot;

He added, &uot;Young people, these rap artists are making money off of you. Look at the videos, where do you think they are getting these luxury houses, cars and jewelry? They want you to fight. Don’t let them get rich off your blood. You don’t have to make it your mission to keep the courts in business. If you like to fight, and don’t want to do anything else with your life, join the armed forces and make it a righteous career.

They’ve got all the fighting you need in Iraq and Iran and you can even get an education and have ribbons on your chest for it.&uot;

Kwasikpui was presented with a gift basket in appreciation for his commitment to come and speak at the event and the work he performs daily on behalf of the community.

The event continued with a host of musical and dance performances by students of Ahoskie Elementary, Bearfield Primary, Hertford County Middle School, Hertford County High School, Riverview Elementary and C.S. Brown Student Development Center, serving as a reminder of the importance of passing on the legacy of the late civil rights leader for generations to come.

Recipients of the evening’s awards were presented to by HCPS to Annie Vaughan Felton, Mrs. Russell P. Martin (on behalf of her late husband), Dr. C.G. Newsome, on behalf of his late father Clarence Shaw Newsome, and Ophelia Downing Jones, &uot;in appreciation for all the lives (they) touched and (their) dedication of service to mankind.

Felton served as an educator, editor, community leader and volunteer and was instrumental, along with her late husband, for establishing the C.S. Brown Regional Cultural Arts Center and Museum where she currently serves as a volunteer, board member and historian.

&uot;Thank you so much. This means a lot to me and I will continue to serve the community,&uot; said Felton.

Martin was recognized for his exemplary leadership of 25 years as Superintendent of HCPS, during which he was faced with the controversial consolidation and integration of schools. He was also instrumental in the development of Roanoke-Chowan Community College and the establishment of the Hertford County Chapter of Retired School Personnel in addition to many other community venues. He was also noted for his 38 years of dedicated service as the Men’s Radio Bible Class teacher at First Baptist Church, Ahoskie.

&uot;Mr. Martin was a giant among men, and I was privileged to know him as a brother,&uot; said presenter J.M. Jenkins. &uot;It was a great honor.&uot;

C. S. Newsome, represented by his son, was recognized for 35 years of service in education from his start as a math and science teacher at R.L. Vann to becoming the principal of the school, also his alma mater. He had also served as Assistant Principal at Ahoskie High School during integration, head football coach for D.F. Walker High School in Edenton earlier in his career and the Title IV Director for HCPS.

&uot;I wish my father were here to accept this award, but I feel that his spirit is telling me that he would have been happy to see this kind of event taking place here in Ahoskie,&uot; said Dr. Newsome.

Nora Artis commented that Jones had been her role model for many years as she presented her with the award. &uot;Mrs. Jones believed in me. She never said it, but her actions showed it.&uot;

Jones received recognition for her dedication to the Hertford County school system through her 30 years of service in education as a reading teacher at C.S. Brown. Prior to her retirement, she was the coordinator and supervisor for federal programs within the school. She was also instrumental in acquiring the Amanda S. Cherry School (formerly Wiccacon House) as a resource center for business and social needs of the community with hopes of developing a literacy center on the site.

&uot;The heart of the dream and these people are the inspiration that motivates us to take a second look at our lives and ask what we can do to continue to make a great impact on the lives of future generations,&uot; said Deloatch.

Kwasikpui admonished that if the community wants race relations to improve, it starts within their own race. &uot;If we succeed at that, then we will truly be continuing the dream.&uot;

Clara Ann Baker, the coordinator of the event commented that, &uot;it was wonderful to be a part of this event.&uot;