The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

January 21, 2011


Church puts emphasis on unity in annual

King observance

SCOTT MULLIN PHOTO

Mackenzie Boatman and Akiah Watts, both 10, discuss what the world might be like today had Rosa Parks not remained in her seat on her bus.

 

By JOHN ROCHE


Speaking at this year’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. seminar Monday morning at Antioch Baptist Church, Kym McNair, an associate minister at the church, urged participants to focus on and carry out the slain civil rights leader’s message not just one day a year but also every day.

“Let’s not let today end,” said Ms. McNair, who served as moderator of the Martin Luther King educational seminar at the Bedford Hills church on Jan. 17.

Ms. McNair, the church’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Paul S. Briggs, and many others who participated in the event this week said they hoped the seminar would spark a call for action in those in attendance, which each participant would then carry back with them to their families, schools, houses of worship and communities.

This year’s seminar had a particular focus on unity, with the various parts of the program following the theme of “Nowhere If Not Together.”

The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and tireless advocate for equal rights for people of all races, peaceful resistance and other issues would have turned 82 this month, and the third Monday of January is a federal holiday in Dr. King’s honor.

Antioch’s seminar, now in its 26th year, drew more than 80 participants, including clergy and others from various faiths. Participants ranged in age from preschoolers to octogenarians, and their parents accompanied many of the young people.

Ten-year-old Akiah Watts said she felt the seminar was an important opportunity to look back as a guide for how to move forward. “If we don’t look back at history, we can’t learn from it,” the fifth-grader said. “It’s about what’s in you, not what you look like.”

Katonah resident Bailey Jackson, 89, recalled what it was like to stand in the massive crowd in Washington, D.C., in 1963 as Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Although he said looking at photos of that historic day of the hundreds of thousands gathered on the mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial made him realize he was “just a spot in the crowd,” Mr. Jackson said he felt a “togetherness” that day in the nation’s capital 48 years ago similar to what he experienced at the seminar this week.

“It’s a feeling of togetherness, and I want that to continue,” Mr. Jackson said. “When we get inspired, when we come together, we just have to press on and keep going, keep moving forward. We can’t let anybody turn us around.”

The emphasis on unity was both powerful and pertinent given the state of society today, according to Nevada Solano, who took part in the three-hour program Monday morning. “We need to come together as a community now more than ever,” Ms. Solano said. “We really need each other, and if we don’t all stand together, we all will fall.”

Another participant, Amy Galloway, said she uses Dr. King’s powerful example throughout the year to inspire students in her fifth-grade class at West Patent Elementary School. “What I especially try to pass on to my students is the power of words,” Ms. Galloway said. “As Rev. King showed us, words can be powerful in a positive way as well as a negative way. We need to think about how we want to use that power. We need to show young people that they have the ability to influence the world they live in.”

Pastor Briggs said it’s easy to identify and even hold on to that which separates us as individuals, as families, as nations, as religions, as cultures.

“But I want to strive to have those truths that we all know to be self-evident be what we’re striving for,” Pastor Briggs said. “What should be sacred in our lives is this work that we have to do together, this work toward justice, this work toward truth, this work toward love.”

Another component of the annual seminar is breakout sessions, in which various age groups take part in hands-on activities and discussions on topics grounded in the program’s general theme.

With the focus this year on “Nowhere If Not Together,” youngsters in prekindergarten through second grade used a story about crayons to consider what the world would be like with only a single color. Third- and fourth-graders explored a story about how a single hen led to the creation of a farm that transformed an entire town as an example of how working together as a community can get things done. Fifth- and sixth-graders took a close look at the pivotal 381-day public transportation boycott sparked by Rosa Parks’s refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white person, while seventh- and eighth-graders presented a skit to demonstrate the power of working together rather than alone. High school students took part in a conversation about the relevance of Dr. King’s message, and adults split up into groups to delve into specific subject matter aimed at taking practical steps toward unity and peace.

Newly seated Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, a Bedford resident now representing the 19th District, said Dr. King’s message of coming together as a nation is more relevant and necessary than ever before. “Dr. King said the goal of our nation is freedom, and as your public servant, that is what I intend always to bear in mind,” Rep. Hayworth told the crowd gathered in the sanctuary at Antioch. “It’s an honor to be with you here today to consider and celebrate the extraordinary changes that have come about because of his leadership and vision.”

Like at a scholarship banquet sponsored by Antioch earlier this month and at an interfaith worship service in honor of Dr. King on Jan. 16, those in attendance closed the seminar by joining hands and singing “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the civil rights movement in the U.S. in the 1960s.

The worship service drew community leaders, clergy from various faiths along with choirs and members from several local congregations. At the worship service, Antioch’s choir was joined by guest singers from Westchester and beyond performing musical selections in honor of Dr. King, who was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The Rev. William Weisenbach, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Katonah, delivered the sermon.

More than 300 people, who enjoyed dinner, awards and remarks by keynote speaker Congressman Kendrick Meek, attended the 33rd annual scholarship banquet held by Antioch on Jan. 7, according to Velma Lewis, chairwoman of Antioch’s Martin Luther King celebration.

Proceeds from the banquet, held at the Westchester Marriot in Tarrytown, provide yearly scholarships to young people in the community.

Honorees were also recognized as part of this year’s Youth for a Dream program. Each year, the program encourages young people from area congregations, groups and the region to enter original works, such as visual art, writing or a song inspired by Dr. King.


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