Invoking King’s legacy

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2024

AHOSKIE – The weather was cold, but the outward expression of love towards all was enough to warm the heart here Monday morning.

The Town of Ahoskie and the RL Vann Resource Center sponsored a march and a program in celebration of the life and legacy of late Civil Rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on what would have been his 95th birthday.

Apostle Keith B. Urquhart Sr. of Faith, Hope, and Deliverance Ministries in Winton opened the event in front of the Ahoskie Fire Department, stating the purpose of the jubilee march was an effort to remember King’s legacy of helping all mankind.

The march proceeded to the grounds of New Ahoskie Baptist Church where its pastor, Rev. Dorian Daniels, noted the program focused on celebrating King’s life while remembering that the struggle for minorities to rise above the pre-Civil Rights days remains real.

Ahoskie Mayor Weyling White said the MLK celebration was one of unity, justice, and equity.

“Today’s march embodies the spirit of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., reminding us of the ongoing journey towards a more inclusive and harmonious community,” White noted. “Together let us honor his legacy by fostering understanding, empathy, and positive change.”

White added that MLK’s impact should serve as a reminder to his dream for a better world for all.

“He urged us to confront injustice with courage,” the Mayor said. “Let’s all strive to embody his principles that fosters a society where every individual are judged by their character, not by their superficial differences.”

Ahoskie Police Chief Michele Garrett stressed that when she looks at Dr. King’s life, she thinks about God, of how he sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to pay for all sins.

“We have all heard Dr. King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech delivered on Aug. 28, 1963. It was a powerful address that promoted equity and freedom,” Garrett recalled. “It was the defining moment of the Civil Rights movement…one of the most iconic speeches in American history.”

Rev. Keith Urqhart (left) provides instructions to the marchers at the start of Monday’s event. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Garrett said Dr. King’s famous speech still resonates today.

“We still have dreams. Don’t give up…hold on to those dreams. Don’t let circumstances stop you from living your dream. Keep pushing, keep driving and keep God first,” Garrett closed.

While Jan. 15 serves as a celebration of Dr. King’s birthday, Hertford County Commissioner John Horton said it was the day of King’s murder – April 4, 1968 – that drove him to a life of public service. Horton said he was an 18-year-old college freshman at that time.

“I prayed that day, asking God why he had to take Dr. King away from us,” Horton recalled. “I prayed for guidance of where we needed to go from that day. It led me to obtain my education and to come home, back to Hertford County, to serve others in honor of Dr. King. I’ve been a public servant since 1986. Dr. King opened that door, and he opened it for others to walk through.”

New Ahoskie Baptist Church Deacon Charlie P. Morris closed out the festivities, stressing the need for the town of Ahoskie to move forward with King’s legacy in mind.

“Everyone needs to be involved in making our town a better place,” Morris said. “Most of us that grew up here remember a time when adults would tell the parents of our young people when those children did something wrong. We need to get back to that. We can’t turn or backs on our children. All of us are in this together. Get involved in your community.”

The event included a stirring rendition of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech by Natesha W. Stephenson, which prompted a standing ovation. They remained standing to join in on “Lift Every Voice and Sing” followed by a solo by Alycia Perry.

Additionally, the family of Charles McCullough along with New Ahoskie Baptist Church sponsored an essay contest for students at Ahoskie Elementary School, Hertford County Middle School, Hertford County High School, Hertford County Early College, and C.S. Brown STEM High School. Fifty-two students submitted essays that were based on the question: Why is celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day important? One winner was named from each school and each received a monetary prize.

The winners of the Christine Satterwhite McCullough Essay Award are as follows:

Khloe Ashe of Ahoskie Elementary School

Shatreece Hamilton of Hertford County Middle School

Hana Joyner of Hertford County High School

Rhyonna Cherry of Hertford County Early College High School

Julia Powell of C.S. Brown STEM High School

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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