The Daily Southerner
With every seat filled Saturday night in the Mobley Atrium at Edgecombe Community College, keynote speaker the Rev. James Gailliard, gave the “perfect” speech at the Edgecombe Entrepreneur Organization’s 23rd annual commemorative banquet.
Gailliard’s speech was in tune with the organization’s theme, “Recognizing our Past, Enduring our Present and Preparing for the Future.” When the fiery minister of Word Tabernacle Church of Rocky Mount had finished, he received a standing ovation.
“If Martin Luther King Jr. was alive today, he probably would have spoke on the same things Rev. Gailliard spoke about,” said Edgecombe Entrepreneur Organization president Linda Knight. “We couldn’t have asked for a better message tonight. It was perfect. The entire event was very nice.”
Gilliard mentioned W.E. Dubois, Harriet Tubman, and other freedom fighters who came before King. He also talked about the Jim Crow period of injustices, including the sit-in at the Greensboro lunch counter that received national attention and the bombing of a black church in Birmingham that killed four little girls. Then, he moved his dialogue to the present, saying “We have a black man in the White House.”
One of Gilliard’s highlights was his urging of blacks to not settle for symbolism, but instead substance.
“We must renew our focus on scholastic; renew our focus of social transformation and renew our focus on spirituality,” he said, as a murmur of noise signifying agreement from the crowd echoed through out the atrium. “Going to school — that’s symbolic. Graduating magna cum laude — that’s substance. Getting a job — that’s symbolic. Owning your own company— that’s substance. Marching to Raleigh or Washington D.C. — that’s symbolic. But changing legislation — that’s substance.”
Gilliard said blacks rose through slavery, segregation and poverty by the result of scholastic, social transformation and spirituality. Although he didn’t signify which of the three was the most important, he dwelled on education more than the other two. He spelled out that educated blacks can be perceived “dangerous.”
“The south believes that an educated Negro is a dangerous Negro,” he said. “I want you to submit to you today that the most dangerous Negro in Tarboro or Rocky Mount or eastern North Carolina is not a Crip or a Blood. The most dangerous Negro is the one who knows how to read; one who knows how to mobilize; one who knows how to organize; one who knows how to mentor; one who knows how to motivate; one who knows how to articulate. And I ain’t scared to say it. I want to be a dangerous Negro.”
Before Gilliard’s speech, the MLK Oratorical Contest winners Shakeil Moore (first place) of Edgecombe Early College and Tyrone Sumler (second place) of North Edgecombe High School read their speeches. Both students received scholarships for their winning essays. The contest was sponsored by the Ebonette Club of Tarboro, Inc.
The MLK banquet is the most profitable fundraiser the Edgecombe Entrepreneur Organization has each year. The event started at the National Guard Armory 23 years ago, outgrew that building and was moved to the Mobley Arium.
In 1990, the organization began awarding an Entrepreneur of the Year Award. This year’s recipient was James Guilford, the owner of Pit Que Catering.
The organization extended its award in 1992 by selecting a Martin Luther King Jr. Citizenship award. This year’s recipient was the Rev. Dr. Thomas L. Walker, a former Edgecombe County commissioner.
A current Edgecombe County Commissioner, the Rev. Wayne Hines, delivered the welcome for the event. He, too, spoke on the past, the present and the future.
“The past has been a teaching took for better living, but the question is, who went to class?” he asked. ... The present is not easy in the work force, education is too political and the call for loving they neighbor as thy self is on vacation at beach greedy where the haves are separated from the have-nots. ... May we endure the present with hard work, productivity and sense enough to know that no man is an island, that we need each other to prepare for the future. Preparing for the future is a must.”