King’s legacy honored with music, speech, action

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 22, 2013

SALISBURY — Dr. Zinerva White urged Rowan County leaders Monday morning to go beyond “I have a dream” and live out the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

“Do you have something in your heart that makes you want to do all you can do to take your talents and bring them forth to help the community?” White said. “It’s time for each one of us to get involved.”

White’s remarks were part of the 27th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Breakfast. A crowd of people filled the J.F. Hurley YMCA gymnasium Monday morning to celebrate King’s legacy as a civil rights leader.

But what’s more important than celebration, White said, is what those people will do when they leave.

“The theme this year is ‘Living the Legacy’ of Dr. King,” White said. “What are you going to do with that legacy? What are you going to do with that inheritance?”

White, a Florida native, is the founder of Fruit of the Spirit Ministries International Apostolic Network and owner of ZIN White and Associates. Earlier in his life, he served 21 years with the U.S. Army in the United State, Germany, Korea and Vietnam.

“On the battlefield, all blood is red,” he said. “No one looks at color. They look at the gifts they have, the training they received, what their responsibility is and the part they play in the victory.”

When White came home from war, he participated in the sit-ins in Alabama. Inspired by King’s dedication to justice and nonviolence, White and others protested peacefully against racial segregation in restaurants.

Today, “we’ve come a long way, yet we still have more to come,” he said. People may no longer be forced to sit separately based on the color of their skin, but injustice still exists in different forms.

“What is the plight of your community? What are those things that you can do?” White said. “I don’t know what’s necessary in your community, but you know.”

Another speaker at Monday’s breakfast was Dari Caldwell, president of Rowan Regional Medical Center.

Caldwell said community service is part of the hospital’s mission, and its leaders look for ways to make a difference in the community.

She said the most important thing the hospital wants to achieve in 2013 is to improve access to care.

“We’re very committed to removing barriers for people who are not getting the care that they need,” Caldwell said.

Already, she said, Rowan Regional has had great success in recruiting more physicians to the community and helping those in need through its charity care policy.

Troy Leshko, a representative from Food Lion’s corporate office, also emphasized the theme of service. He said Food Lion and its associates support local nonprofit organizations like Rowan Helping Ministries and the Rowan County United Way.

“I encourage you to step up, step out in your community and offer your time and talent to those organizations and those people that are here in the service of helping those in need,” Leshko said.

Craig Pierce, vice chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, read a proclamation from the county honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Instead of reading a similar proclamation from the city of Salisbury, Mayor Paul Woodson spoke about King’s legacy and the progress that Salisbury has made toward it. He said the city has taken a big step by making high-speed internet available to all of its residents through Fibrant.

Dr. Seth Labovitz with the Human Relations Council recognized the Park Avenue Redevelopment Corporation, North Rowan Connection, the West Rowan High School JROTC, the Good Shepherd’s Clinic, the Rev. William D. Turner and William Peoples for their service and their work towards justice.

Veleria Levy, also with the Human Relations Council, encouraged the crowd in her closing remarks to have a hand in molding the community’s future.

“I hope the seed is growing inside of you to make a change,” Levy said.

Dr. Nilous M. Avery II, pastor of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Salisbury, officiated Monday’s breakfast and gave the invocation.

The Salisbury Ecumenical Choir, directed by Dr. Phillip Burgess, led the crowd in a few songs Monday.

The Livingstone College Julia B. Duncan Players performed a joyful African dance. Then, their director Michael Connor brought the room to its feet with King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Bishop Harvey L. Rice Sr., pastor of Mt. Calvary Holy Church in Salisbury, gave the benediction.

Immediately following the breakfast was a memorial service at Freedman’s Cemetery at the corner of Liberty and Church streets. More than 150 African-Americans – known and unknown, enslaved and free – are buried there.

Led by Dr. Grant Harrison Jr., the small gathered crowd sang hymns, said prayers and participated in a candlelighting ceremony in honor of King.

Next in the festivities was the annual parade, where Tommy H. Hairston Sr. served as grand marshal and Wakil Harrison served as junior grand marshal.

The parade led to the Salisbury Civic Center for the final event of the day. There, the Salisbury-Rowan Human Relations Council held a live viewing of President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, followed by a showcase of community talent.

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.