To honor the words of such a man by acting on his message of hope is the ultimate awakening to community need.
And to honor the dream of a man, by pursuing his vision of hate lost and love gained, is to pay rightful homage to an undying belief in a better day ... one whose light shines just a little brighter upon a people whose lives are lifted just a little higher.
In life, this man of conscience and goodwill was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
He was a liberator.
He was a voice of equality.
He was a face who stood boldly with the faceless.
He was a leader who stood his ground in a sea of oppression.
He was much beloved.
He was violently despised.
But change came. In an America of the 1950s and ’60s, turbulence rocked the nation’s heart. This man preached change through peaceful resistance, but in a life dominated by color of skin such change gave inevitable rise to violence and to volatile misgivings — on both sides of the race barrier.
But change came.
Change came slowly. But change came.
Change spawned resentment. But change came.
Change spilled the blood of the innocent. But change came.
Change forced a nation to look within herself. But change came.
Change fueled terror. Change frightened young and old alike. Change forced white men to look into a mirror and to peer at their black reflections. But change came.
Blessed are we in this land of the free and home of the brave that a new America is giving rise to real tolerance and staunch appreciation for all that is diverse, both in complexion and in complexity. And all this rose with the morning dawn because change came.
Change is not a last resort. Change is the measure of sincerity that dwells in the heart of man.
And so it is, 50 years and five months after the rebirth of a nation as inspired by the words of one man’s historic address — “I Have a Dream” — that a nation, and a community, honor one of their own.
Monday is the birthday of the late Dr. King, a man who gave his life in exchange for a people’s dream.
But the coming weekend will be filled in celebration — not just in memory, but in pursuit of the dreams of all who dare to believe ... today, tomorrow, next week, another month, a future year and well beyond.
On Saturday, the Bradley County Chapter of the NAACP will begin the observation. Themed “Salute to Greatness,” it gets underway at 9 a.m. with a prayer breakfast to be held at the Bradley/Cleveland Senior Center. Attendees won’t be asked for money, but for five canned goods to be donated to the Cleveland Emergency Shelter. The speaker is Shaquana Kennedy, a Cleveland native and now a resident of Johnson City.
On Sunday, the celebration continues with a Community Worship Service at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church at 4 p.m. Keynote speaker will be Minister Timothy Purifory of Christian Fellowship Center in Cleveland. The Rev. James Parris, pastor of Star Bethel Baptist Church in Etowah, will serve as master of ceremony.
On Monday, the NAACP invites the community to participate in a day of service in honor of Dr. King. Volunteers will serve a hot meal at the Cleveland Emergency Shelter on Wildwood Avenue from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
On Monday evening, the NAACP, 100 Black Men of Bradley County, the Cleveland/Bradley Ministerial Association and Lee University will host the Annual Dream Keeper Award Ceremony in the Conn Center on the beautful Lee campus. The popular community event, which begins at 6 p.m., will bestow Dream Keeper awards to minority students in the Cleveland City and Bradley County School systems who have maintained a 3.0 GPA or above in grades 7-12 through the first semester.
Guest speaker will be Martina Harris, director of nursing at Chattanooga State Community College.
For more information about the M.L. King Weekend Celebration, contact RaSharon King at 423-987-3356 or Demetrius Ramsey at 423-544-3387.
Also on Monday, Tennessee Christian Preparatory School will host a breakfast for Upper School students and guests in the school cafeteria at 8 a.m. Featured speaker will be Ron Hill, a retired Cleveland educator, principal and well respected pastor. At 9 a.m., TCPS Upper School students will gather at the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway for a service project in honor of Dr. King and the entire community.
It is a fitting weekend of celebration that seeks to recognize a great man, but will place greatest focus on a man’s dream.
It is a dream whose quest has never faded.
It is a dream that dwells within the beating hearts of all who share a common vision.
It is a dream of life where skin is just a cover, and not a color.