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Human rights celebration held at Southern City AME Zion

The fourth annual Human Rights Celebration was held Aug. 21 at Southern City AME Zion Church. Seven denominations and 22 different churches comprised the 60 persons who attended.
Salisbury Rowan Church Women United president, Betty Jo Hardy, welcomed the group, explained about the CWU movement and noted this celebration was a time to honor and to be inspired by the peacemakers in our midst.
Worship program participants were Human Rights Co-Chairs Sarah Byerly and Mavis Moss; Ecumenical Celebrations Chair Jean Lowery; AME Zion District Chair Dorothy Gill-Smith; Treasurer Catherine Krider; and First United Methodist Church Representative Hilda Pyatt.
Song leader was Maggie Reid of New Zion Baptist Church and Phyllis Partee of Crown in Glory Lutheran Church was piano accompanist. Montrella Davis coordinated the Ecumenical Action Project.
The heart of the Human Rights Celebration was to present this year’s Church Women United Human Rights Awards, including framed certificates and pins, to local individuals who work for peace in their communities and in the world. The recipients were Donnie Taylor-Jefferson and the Rev. Dr. Fleming Otey.
Taylor-Jefferson is an active member of Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church, working with their outreach ministry, and chairs the grant-writing ministry and the “One-Church-One-Child” group.
She worked with the Rev. Dr. Clary L. Phelps, pastor, and the church members to establish the Westside Community Foundation Inc., separate from the church, a non-profit organization which provides programs for the community. She has written proposals that have generated more than $350,000 in funding for The After School Program, Summer Enrichment Program, Youth Mentoring, House of Hope and Teen Summit. Taylor-Jefferson helps to manage all of these programs.
Otey is a Native American who has brought awareness to the Salisbury Community of the Native American culture in our area. He has been instrumental in developing and implementing the “Let’s Get Connected Day” event sponsored by the Covenant Community Connection, which is a subgroup of the Salisbury-Rowan Human Relations Council. He has coordinated the Circle of Prayer at the celebration since the inception of the event.
Since 2006 the highlight of this event has been the planting of a peace pole, engraved with the message, “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” Otey has enlisted and organized persons representing the inter-faith community to bring prayers for peace at the dedication of the peace pole.
Otey is a Baptist minister who retired from 10 years of service as chaplain at the W.G.(Bill) Heffner VA Medical Center in Salisbury. With the chaplaincy and as a retired 20-year Air Force lt. colonel and a retired 20-year Navy lt. commander, Otey has a total of 50 years of public service. He has devoted his life to advocating for human rights. Early in his life he was involved with the civil rights movement in Nashville, Tenn.
Immediately following the awards presentations, another highlight of the service was reflection and listing by all present of other individuals who work quietly and peacefully to make a difference. Each attendee had a note card on which to list other persons in the international, national, state and/or Rowan community.
Jean Kennedy of Southern City led the group in the sharing of those names, which included Mother Theresa, Mahatma Ghandi, John Calvin, Martin Luther King Jr., Billy Graham, Hilary Clinton, Al Gore, Mayor Susan Kluttz, the Rev. Jim Cress, the Rev. Bob Freeman, Virginia Shuford and the Rev. S.R. Johnson, among others.
The Rev. Bob Freeman pronounced the benediction, and the group adjourned to the fellowship hall for refreshments. The Attendance Banner was won by St. Luke Baptist Church.
As an expression of ecumenical action, school supplies were brought to be given to Rowan County Communities in Schools. Doris Yost, a board member of CiS, gladly took three large full boxes to that office.
The next SRCWU Celebration will be the World Community Day Celebration, a Luncheon/Program on Nov. 6.

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