MOUNT VERNON — “Past, Present and Future: Changing Times” was the theme for Monday’s seventh annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Breakfast.
Video clips of King and audio repeats of some of his talks greeted guests as they entered the dining commons on the campus of Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Also on display were a pictorial timeline of King’s life, photos of individuals who lost their lives in the struggle for civil rights and artwork by third-grade students commemorating King’s legacy. The young artists are from East and Wiggin Street elementary schools.
Mona Carter, a member of the Dr. King Legacy committee spoke of King’s vision and determination.
“We cannot understand our present if we do not know our past,” she said.
Keynote speaker Dr. Annette Jefferson, speaking as northern slave Sojourner Truth, took the audience on a journey back to the 1800s. Her powerful presentation brought to life the hardships, horrific conditions, faith and hope experienced by millions of African-Americans in this country.
“We was just property,” Truth declared. “Although I bore five children in my own body and gave birth, they was all sold.” She spoke matter-of-factly about beatings, being separated from loved ones and finally being freed, buoyed by a strong faith and determination to “declare truth to the people.”
The present — and a challenge for everyone today to work to keep King’s dream and legacy alive — was showcased by brief remarks from Dr. S. Georgia Nugent, Kenyon College president; Dr. Dan Martin, MVNU president; and Richard Mavis, Mount Vernon mayor. Musical highlights included vocal numbers by Cindy Wallace, a musical selection by the MVNU drumline and an interpretive dance, “We Must Pray,” performed by MVNU students DeAnna Hardeman and Jasmine Skinner.
Also typifying the present is Ariel’s Spirit of the Vision Award. This year’s recipient is Jim Kelly. Now retired after 40 years in the telephone business, Kelly serves on the Legacy committee and participates faithfully in the Knox County United Way campaigns. His compassion and dedication to the community is also evidenced by the numerous volunteer efforts in which he is engaged.
Mount Vernon High School student Cole McDonough represented the future. He read his first-place winning essay to the gathering. McDonough asked how we can keep the dream of equality alive, and said we must first ask ourselves what equality is.
“It is the ability to have the same aspirations, hopes and dreams as others,” he said, “and to have the freedom to pursue those dreams.”
Nodding to the audience, he said it was up to all of us. “Only you can decide what the future will be like,” he concluded.
Other essay winners were MVHS students Lindsey Studebaker, second place; and Allison Glass, third.
In Dr. King’s honor, First-Knox National Bank awarded book scholarships to a handful of college students: Tatenda Uta and Clifford Eberhardt from Kenyon, and Sarah May, Lindsey Berg and Vanessa Calito, MVNU.
The annual breakfast is co-sponsored by Kenyon College and MVNU and made possible by a number of corporate sponsors. Terri Hubbard, mistress of ceremonies, was assisted by Legacy committee members throughout the celebration. The opening prayer was given by Pastor Dwayne Hubbard, and closing remarks and prayer were given by Pastor Duane Kramer.