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MLK Dinner

By Joe Starkey



Just maybe, but very doubtfully and needing a lot more incentive than a hundred dollar savings bond could you have gotten me as a fifth grader to stand up and give a two minute speech to a large group of adults but that is exactly what Kelly Bowen, Vernon Willis and Taylor McLoud did {{more}} for the Martin Luther King Dinner on January 22nd. They were the winners of the Abilene MLK Oratory contest sponsored by Abilene Independent School District for all students in grades 4 thru 12. It’s wonderful that 5th graders would be willing to speak in front of a group and more amazing that they could win an oratory competition over junior and senior high students. Each gave a speech on the “I have a Dream” speech. Kelly Bower of Bassiti Elementary wanted us “all together as friends” Vernon Willis of Reagan Elementary was glad to have “friends that don’t matter what color they are” while wanting to be like Rev. King and inspire others. Taylor McLoud of Ortiz Elementary said “children should not be called names because of race or religion and should be able to work or teach wherever they want” and roused those attending as he finished “We Need to be Free at Last!” The entertainment was great and I would encourage you to go see either of these groups if you have the opportunity. Cornerstone did an outstanding job of singing The National Anthem and The Expressions Praise Team from Shiloh Baptist did an excellent job of praising through dance. The introduction of the main speaker included a passage from one of Dr. King’s first sermons that “after one discovers what he has been called to do, he should set out to do it with all the power in his life.” Dr. Tracy Andrus has done just that. A childhood of poverty and a sentence to a state prison went before he discovered his call. From prisoner to first black to earn a Doctorate degree in Criminal Justice is a long way and makes him well worth listening to. Some of his comments: Tonight we are here to honor Martin Luther King. We need to understand that love is greater than hate. Sometimes in life – you don’t listen but God always has his way. He told us that “even visiting prison and seeing it with your own eyes is a very different thing than actually being handcuffed and going into prison. While I was not arrested but Rescued, young people need to listen and not travel that road. All the money made can not buy safety in prison.” Continuing on the prison system, he commented that currently the quickest way to jumpstart the economy of a city or region when the industries leave is to build a prison and that 75% of inmates are back in jail within 3 years. Dr. Andrus insisted that before we can take back our community, we must take back our homes and this requires that 1. You don’t disrespect your children – treat them with honesty 2. Don’t smoke, drink or do drugs and expect your children not to just because you say so 3. Drive-bys and revenge need to be forsaken and 4. Remember that felons can’t vote and whoever controls the voting box controls the state. Stating that “this event reminds me of what Heaven will look like” with all the different people in attendance, he went on to say that the major problems in America are not race but #1 is poverty, #2 is education that reaches everyone early in life and #3 is jobs that pay a living wage. Using an illustration from weaving, he stated we need to learn to work together as the power is not in the woof but in the pattern. Dr. Andrus ended by giving his dream of “either we learn to live together or we will die together.” Mr. Floyd Miller thanked the MLK dinner committee for looking past the fact that the speaker they invited had been to prison which “will stop most people from having a person speak” and invited all to learn from the lessons given tonight. Mayor Norm Archibald came to the podium to present a proclamation in honor of Martin Luther King Day and dinner but first told those assembled that “we need to denounce the bigotry shown recently and the shooting of the past week.” “We will not let this type of behavior continue in our city.”

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