Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day of remembrance, a day of learning, and a day of celebration. Monday afternoon at the Dunkirk Moose Club, the Martin Luther King Luncheon Committee organized all three into its annual event.
The gathering to honor Dr. King began with the presentation of colors by the Dunkirk High School Junior ROTC, a prayer of thanks from the Rev. Earlie G. Waller for Dr. King's legacy and an uplifting song.
"We Shall Overcome" was sung by participants in non-violent protests during the Civil Rights movement, and was repeated by all at the luncheon.
Luncheon at Dunkirk Moose
Loretta Slaton Torain of the MLK Luncheon committee opened with a few words.
"In his speech Dr. King said these words, 'I am delighted to see each of you here tonight in spite of a storm warning. You revealed that you are determined to go on any how. Something is happening in Memphis, something is happening in our world.' I echo Dr. King's words and I am delighted to see so many out today in spite of the cold weather. Something is happening in Dunkirk and something is definitely happening in our world," she said.
Dunkirk Mayor Richard Frey addressed all those gathered with a proclamation.
OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino
Loretta Slaton Torain opens the annual Martin Luther King Day Luncheon with a few inspirational words from Dr. King Monday at the Dunkirk Moose Club.
"Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who brought hope and healing to America, we commemorate the timely values that he taught us ... that rarely defied Dr. King's character and empowered his leadership. And Dr. King's noble and peaceful protest demonstrations were of such grandeur he earned the respect of the world ... He was a man who taught by example that the non-violent protest is the most important force for revolutionary social change. I, Richard L. Frey, by the power vested in me as mayor of the city of Dunkirk, New York do hereby proclaim today Jan. 17 as Dr. Martin Luther King Day , enjoy," Frey said to applause.
In Fredonia, for Mayor Michael Sullivan's absence, Justice David Prince also gave a speech of his personal remembrance of Dr. King.
"As I sat here this morning it made me think of 45 years ago when Martin Luther King marched from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama. I was there, assigned as one of his bodyguards. And I must be honest with you at the time I didn't realize the importance of that day. It was on a Sunday, a very sunny day, and what was surprising, not being from the South, seeing how the blacks were treated on that day ... I think back to how important it was and what a privilege it was to be there and be assigned to protect that gentleman," Prince said, adding the mayor had intended to attend and proclaim this day Martin Luther King Day.
Dr. King was a figure who inspired tremendous civic action. His holiday is meant to remember what he stood for and in keeping with that, Joyce Harvard Smith and Bianca Moore gave a tribute to Ann Manly.
"It is always difficult when a community looses a true treasure. Today we come to recognize the contributions of Ann Manly. Ms. Manly passed away Nov. 7, 2010. Dr. King in his 'Mountaintop' speech used these words - 'let us develop a king of dangerous unselfishness.' Ann Manly was a quiet woman but she had that dangerous unselfishness that Dr. King spoke of," Smith said.
Manly was involved in the local branch of the National Association of Colored People, the Martin Luther King Day Luncheon Committee and was always interested in helping young people.
The theme of the luncheon this year was Dr. King's speech in Memphis, Tenn., on April 3 1968. in that speech like all of his speeches, he stirred his audience to action for what was right.
"Now we're going to march again, and we've got to march again, in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be - and force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of God's children here suffering ... And we've got to say to the nation: We know how it's coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory ... Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness ... Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be," Dr. King said in an excerpt from his speech "I've been to the Mountaintop", given the day before his death.
This annual luncheon is organized with much thought put into it. This event celebrates the teachings of a great man and allows celebration those who follow in his path. This day helps all to remember the lessons learned from the past.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated the third Monday of January to mark the figure's birthday. This was the first national holiday to be claimed for a private citizen that did not hold public office and became a holiday in the mid-1980's.
In the 1990s President Bill Clinton signed federal legislation authorizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day to become The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. In many cities across the U.S. citizens honor Dr. King by donating their time to make a difference.
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