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With a gospel choir singing, children dancing, the audience clapping and everybody smiling, there was no question the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds on Monday was a celebration. “I can’t contain myself — I want to howl, I want to cry, I want to laugh,” said Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Theodore Spearman, the keynote speaker.
Not only did the event commemorate 80 years since Dr. King’s birthday, it also came one day before the historic inauguration of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president. People of all races filled the President’s Hall to celebrate during the 15th annual event, which is sponsored yearly by Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, the city of Bremerton and Kitsap County.
Participants were up on their feet, clapping and singing along with the MLK Community Choir. The MLK Community Liturgical Dancers, whose participants ranged in age from toddlers to adults, surrounded them in a dance. Spearman took the opportunity to not only look back at King’s accomplishments, but to look forward, because, he noted, “tomorrow will be as no other day before it.”
The sacrifice and the work of those who shared King’s dream of racial equality made Obama’s victory possible, Spearman said. Now, he said, it is time to pass these hopes and dreams to the next generation. “Children are our art,” Spearman said. “We will produce either masterpieces or children afraid to dream or hoodlums.”
As a judge, Spearman has seen many “lost and confused good kids,” and he believes that parents must do a better job of raising the future generations. He urged parents to take the time to show their love for their children and to invest more time in their lives. He called on them to read to their children starting at a young age, and to turn off the television.
Parents should live out their values, because children are always watching, he said. They need to keep high expectations for themselves. As children gain the power of hope from their parents, they, too, will have the imagination to dream. And with the right tools, including discipline and education, they will achieve their dreams, he said.
“We become alive and uncontainable when we learn to dream with the courage to act,” Spearman said. He described the obstacles that people such as King, Rosa Parks and others had to overcome to bring the nation to where it is today. They had to widen the doors of opportunities so that all people could be free, he said.
Steven Joyner, 54, could relate to the talk of inequalities faced by blacks, having grown up in Virginia. “I’m very proud to have lived through a time where I saw the changes that were made by what (King) stood for.” For 65-year-old Flora Stevenson, Monday’s holiday honors a man who transformed American society.
“(King) made it so that now people can sit where they want, drink out of whatever fountain they want, and work side by side,” Stevenson said. “He didn’t just do it for black people, he did it for everyone so all nationalities would be treated equally.”
A quote from King’s speech originally made on April 3, 1968, was read at the beginning of the program, and for many participants, it summed up powerfully what his legacy has helped accomplish. “He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the Promised Land.”
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