The Daily Southerner
In a joint effort, the Edgecombe County Human Relation Commission, The Ebonette Club Inc., Tarboro Area Ministers and the Edgecombe Entrepreneur Organization (EE0) are gearing up for the 23rd celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. The theme of the celebration is “Recognizing our Past, Enduring our Present and Focusing on our Future.”
“When I think about these events, my mine reflects back that 150 years ago the Emancipation Proclamation was signed,” Carlton Jones, a member of EEO said. “Now, on Jan. 21 we have an African American President who will be inaugurated and we’re going to have a banquet for one of the most significant civil right leaders of our times. Putting all of that together, it gives me that feeling of anything is possible. That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. believed.”
The three-day event will kick off at 6 p.m. Sunday with its annual Commemorative Worship Service at Tarboro’s Eastern Star Baptist Church with the Rev. Mike Chatt of the Rock Church as the speaker. The worship services alternate each year with a black church hosting the event and white minister delivering the sermon, then a white church hosting and black minister delivering the sermon. Eastern Star is a black church and Chatt is a white minister. The event usually draws a interracial congregation that fills the host church to capacity.
Six days later, on Jan. 19, the Rev. James D. Gailliard of Word Tabernacle Church in Rocky Mount, will be the guest speaker for the Commemorative Banquet at Edgecombe Community College’s Mobley Atrium. The banquet is also a big draw.
The celebration will continue on Jan. 21 with three events; the Unity Breakfast at 8 a.m. at Edgecombe County Administration Building Auditorium with speaker Angela Dunston, former director of the office of citizen and Faith Outreach for Gov. Bev. Predue; the Commemorative March beginning at 10 a.m. at St. Stephen Baptist Church; and Lunch with the King at 11:30 a.m. at St. Luke Church of Christ in Princeville.
With people of all ages participating in the 1.5 mile walk, the Commemorative March draws the largest crowd. Historically, at least a couple of hundred people take part — with some holding signs with slogans Dr. King used when he marched as he fought racial injustice.
The series of Edgecombe celebrations are considered some of the best in Eastern North Carolina.
“We’re successful because of the programs we have year after year,” Jones said. “What we’ve been able to do is to bring in speakers who are interesting and they stay on point.
“The banquet and march are the most popular with the march making people reflect back on how far we have actually come. No matter how cold, the street is packed when we leave St. Stephens Church to walk across the bridge to Princeville. The attendance has always been overwhelming.”
Jamila Hawkins, helps coordinate the events and provide support from the Edgecombe Human Relations. The celebration is more than just a gathering for Hawkins.
“I’m a huge advocate for this celebration,” she said. “Not just for people to become a part of this, but to let them understand the signficance of it. All of these programs we put on, they are not just programs. We want them to understand them and engage in them and feel it deep down within their souls.”
During the banquet and Lunch with the King, the winner of the Oratorical Contest, which is sponsored by the Ebonette Club Inc. of Tarboro, will read their speech. The contest was for Edgecombe County students and winners will receive scholarships.
Linda Knight, president of EEO, is hoping for a good turnout.
“I hope we have a record turnout ... that people get engaged and support our effort of what we doing in community,” she said. “We are asking everybody to donate school supplies so we can get a jump start on our back to school giveway. Last year, we were short so we are trying to get an early start for donations.”
The Rev. Eric Crowe is the Honorary Chairman of the 23rd Celebration.