MLK Day observed in F’ville ceremony

Tue, 01/20/2009 - 5:00pm
By: Ben Nelms

MLK Day observed in F’ville ceremony

It started off as a cold day, but that was only the weather. Frigid temperatures Saturday morning in Fayetteville could not dampen the spirits of the many participants and onlookers for the Martin Luther King Parade along Ga. Highway 85. The jubilation continued after the parade at Lafayette Education Center gym where more than 300 gathered for the MLK Commemorative Birthday Celebration Program.

The event featured The Branches Community Church Combined Choir, Fayette NAACP Branch President John Jones, Flat Rock AME Pastor Edward Johnson, speakers from Sandy Creek High School, musical selections by Branches Community Church Minister of Music Kim Hardwick and numerous others. The guest speaker was Emory University’s History of American Religion and Culture Prof. Lerone A. Martin.

Speaking of Martin Luther King, Martin said the civil rights leader loved his country and did not falter in praising the good of America without shying away from its failures.

“This is the kind of love that must be reinvigorated and this reminds us of the Constitution in which all are created equal,” Martin said. “We must pray, struggle and reinvigorate a new future.”

Martin noted that in some quarters the conceptualization and definition of patriotism is seen in a different light and held to different standards of proof. These differences, he said, will not serve the full reality that true patriotism requires.

“Pundits say that love of country is a high form of patriotism,” Martin explained, adding that to sing only of the praises of liberty, while neglecting the more unsavory aspects of national life, strikes one more like an infatuation with the idea of liberty. “Authentically mature love means addressing the good and bad as well. Until we recognize our successes and failures we cannot understand what real love is.”

Martin tied King’s statements on love and liberty with the work that lies ahead for the new president, and beyond. That work, he said, involves the efforts of every American.

“King’s vision for a new future for America was for us to work together. The question our kids will ask us is what we did when Barack was in office,” said Martin. “We need color-blind love to re-imagine tomorrow. We need to work for a tomorrow where every issue is important and where every election needs a record voter turnout.”

Another of the morning’s speakers was Fayette County resident Camara Carter. Her address was a reflection on the nature of “freedom,” in which the word is more a verb than a noun. Her perspective was not centered on the legislatively-enacted freedom that comes by way of a Constitution or a Bill of Rights, but on one that comes from a more fundamental place inside human consciousness itself.

Carter used King’s “The Rise of a New Nation” speech as a jumping off point and wove together Kwame Nkrumah’s fight for Ghana’s independence from the British Crown and the struggles of Nelson Mandela and Jane Pittman to elucidate the point that, in an individual sense, the outward forces that bear down on us cannot equal the bondage we generate in our own minds.

Her comments were reminiscent of those of Epictetus some 20 centuries ago who said “He whose body is chained, but his soul unbound, is free.” Carter explained that the freedom that is most precious is the freedom we experience as we obliterate the self-doubt and insecurity that exist inside each of us.

“We hold our own selves in bondage in many ways, namely through the self-doubts and insecurities that exist within each of us. Just like these oppressors of history, the oppressors within ourselves are afraid of who we truly are,” Carter said. “The British Empire within ourselves tells us that we cannot achieve our life potentials and goals; and therefore, we stop trying. However, in his speech, Dr. King mentions that individuals must work for their freedom because the oppressor will never relinquish his control over the oppressed, voluntarily. Therefore, we too must work for our freedom. We must fight to overcome our fears and achieve the passions and goals that burn within us all. We must never give in to the self-doubts and insecurities that may flood our minds, for we will never truly become free until we take the stand of believing in ourselves.”

Pretty substantial comments for the 15-year-old Sandy Creek High School student. Carter’s thesis puts her in good company, surrounded with a legion of philosophers, theologians and others that have spanned millennia.

Carter again toward the end of her remarks referenced King’s “The Birth of a New Nation.” Her comments mirrored a revolutionary in science, Albert Einstein, who in 1951 said, “The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which one has attained liberation from the self.”

“In his speech, Dr. King stated ‘there is something in the soul that cries out for freedom,’” Carter said. “And this inner spirit still cries out today. It tells us to accept who we are and believe in ourselves. We will forever be held in bondage unless we stand up against our oppressors of self-doubt and insecurities and make a change. It is up to us to find this freedom within ourselves; and subsequently, within our lives.”

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