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Hundreds gathered Monday for an inspiring message of hope and unity at the 25th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast held at the Darden Alumni Family Center. Leaders also commissioned the crowd to put King’s dream into action by working together as one.
“Do you have a dream?” keynote speaker and chaplain Wallace Allen asked. “Do you have a reason? Dreams without action don’t become realities.”
Allen, a Roxboro native, serves as an outpatient chaplain for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers in Greenville, Raleigh and Morehead City.
Allen said King had a brilliant mind and an unbreakable spirit.
“Dr. King devoted his life for a cause,” Allen said. “Dreams don’t come to fruition without getting up. It’s time to get up and get moving. You’ve got to do your part.”
Allen spent 14 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and served as a pastor of a Missionary Baptist church in Virginia before moving back to North Carolina and joining the National Guard, where he was deployed to Korea, Germany and Kuwait before enduring a back injury while in Iraq.
He said King knew what it meant to improvise, adapt and overcome. He also believed in joining hands to tear down the walls that separate people.
“Collectively, we have the power to overcome,” he said.
‘ARE YOU A CONDUIT FOR CHANGE?’
Prayers were lifted up for not only the community, but for youth and the world Monday morning. Evangelist Candy Taylor, who is also co-founder of New Christian Food Pantry, prayed that everyone would stand together as one in making Wilson stronger and more prosperous.
“We are one community,” Taylor said. “Let us love one another in love and unity.”
The Rev. Maurice Barnes, equity and Gentleman’s Agreement coordinator for Wilson County Schools, also commissioned youth to stand up for what’s right and blessed them in spite of the challenges they may face in doing so.
The Rev. Roosevelt Ethridge performed a powerful monologue for the crowd entitled, “King’s Voice,” and called on young people to champion causes they believe in.
“Are you a conduit for change?” he asked. “Make justice a reality for all God’s children.”
The breakfast also included special music by The Barnes Project and Sallie B. Howard Chorus.
Winners of the Sallie B. Howard Honor Essay Contest were also announced. Area middle school students participated in the contest with the theme: “What is your dream on continuing to grow and enhance cultural diversity in the Wilson community?”
First place went to seventh-grader Janesha Isom of Toisnot Middle School. Isom received a $100 savings bond.
Isom read her essay aloud Monday for those in attendance at the breakfast. The seventh-grader said cultural diversity is important.
“There is so much we can learn from one another,” she said, adding that everyone should take the time to appreciate those around them.
Other essay contest winners include:
• Second place, Audrey Earp, eighth-grader at Springfield Middle School, who received a $75 savings bond
• Third place, Jonathan Lewis, eighth-grader at Springfield Middle School, who received a $50 savings bond
‘GIVE ME YOUR TIRED, YOUR POOR, YOUR HUDDLED MASSES ...’
Prior to the breakfast Monday, U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-Wilson, told the crowd that it would be a defining week as he and others return to Washington on Tuesday.
Monday marked the partial government shutdown’s 31st day.
Butterfield said King would say that, “America has lost her way when it allows the president to dictate to the U.S. Senate on how to conduct its business.”
He said there are more than 51 votes today in the U.S. Senate to reopen the government and pay the workers without building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“If only the Republican leader would put it up for a vote,” Butterfield said. “Martin Luther King Jr. would say to America, ‘Protect your border, absolutely protect your border, but use technology and border agents to protect the border, but never, ever build a wall and tell the world that we are not a beacon of hope for the downtrodden.”
He added that King would remind America of who we are by citing the inscription on the Statute of Liberty.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” Butterfield said, quoting the famous Emma Lazarus poem inscribed on the statue. “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
The breakfast is hosted by the MLK Jr. Commission in partnership with the city of Wilson’s Human Relations Commission office.