The local region awoke early Monday morning for food, fellowship and song in paying homage to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the holiday designated in his name.
The annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast at Zebulon Baptist Church drew its usual packed crowd to the church’s fellowship hall.
Lively musical performances by members of St. John United Holiness Church, a compelling recitation of the “I Have a Dream” speech by local youth Rian Parker and Amauri Harris, and a keynote speech by retired Zebulon educator Lewis Liles highlighted the celebration.
Liles used the platform to draw attention to King’s emphasis on the use of nonviolence in trying times. He played a clip from a King speech summarizing his approach that “we don’t have to hate as we sort this thing out.”
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Liles also recognized those in attendance and many who have passed away who were champions of peace during the integration of local schools, calling them agents of change.
“Dramatic change was made in this community through a nonviolent approach promoted by Dr. King,” Liles said. “We can stop this senseless violence today by following his approach. At times, his message was civil disobedience, but it was peaceful.”
At Riley Hill Baptist Church, The Rev. Dr. Staccato Powell gave one of the more memorable King sermons in recent years. Without ever invoking King’s name, Powell talked about the progress of the civil rights movement since the historic march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery.
He acknowledged the successes of the movement, including the election of the nation’s first African-American president in Barack Obama.
“I suspect no one in this room, except maybe the children, ever thought we would see that day,” Powell said.
But he also chided his audience for getting too comfortable in their successes.
“Don’t get yourself lulled to sleep because we still have a ways to go,” Powell said.
He encouraged the crowd to be strategic in their decisions, systematic in their direction and sustainable in their determination.
He said civil rights leaders and the rank and file should return to their foundation. “We must go back to our Biblical teachings,” Powell argued. “We’ve got to call on God like we mean that thing.”
Powell’s remarks were sandwiched between a pair of songs performed by Alonza King and breakfast served by the church’s youth.