LUMBERTON – The legacy of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was honored Monday through multiple events in Robeson County.
More than 30 people gathered Monday afternoon in the Fairmont-South Robeson Heritage Center to attend the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event, which was organized by Stop the Violence Program.
“The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is a defining moment each year when Americans across the country step up to make our communities more equitable and take action to create the beloved community of Dr. King’s dream,” said Fairmont Commissioner Heather Seibles.
“While Dr. King believed the beloved community was possible, he acknowledged and fought for the systematic changes. His example is our call to action,” she said.
The day is held on the third Monday of each January and consists of a day of service to the public, she said.
The Rev. Tyrone Watson, president of the Unified Robeson NAACP Branch, shared a message titled “From the Dream to a Reality.”
Watson said that 54 years have passed since King’s speech which continues to inspire people to “continue to fight for equality.”
“We can all agree that this dream is far from a reality,” he said.
He spoke of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, and said that statistically African Americans are incarcerated five times the rate of whites.
He also spoke of the symbol of the Robeson County Confederate Monument, which stands in front of the Robeson County Courthouse.
“These are not black issues, but they are American issues,” he said.
“There is work for all of us to do,” Watson said.
To achieve the dream, individuals must first believe in it, he said. People must personalize the dream, be determined to make it a reality and dedicated to standing up for what is right.
“Because my brothers and sisters, when you walk with God one person can make a difference,” Watson said.
“But, the question that I have for you today, are you that one person? Can you be reliable and dependable … Faithful and forgiving? Helpful and humble to make this dream a reality?” he said.
Also during the ceremony, the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. was played via video. Dontrell Biggs also performed the songs “We Shall Overcome” and “A Change Is Gonna Come,” of which members of the crowd responded by singing along or standing during the performances.
Lunch was served in to-go plates and the following vendors participated by providing items at the event: Healthy Robeson, Robeson County Health Department and Southeastern Family Violence Center of Scotland County.
Pauline Campbell and Wixie Stephens, Robeson County commissioners and Unified Robeson NAACP Branch members also spoke at the event.
“I have to remind myself that we all are elected by the people to serve the community, but we are all chosen by God. It really takes a special kind of person to want to be a servant,” Stephens said.
“As we reflect on today’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday, it is because of him that made it possible for me to be elected the first African American female chair of Robeson County Board of Commission. But, the struggle is still real.”
Stephens then asked elected officials to introduce themselves. Officials like Robeson County District Court Judge Diane Surgeon, District Attorney Matt Scott, Fairmont Mayor Charles Kemp, and Fairmont Commissioners Terry Evans, Melvin Ellison and J.J. McCree introduced themselves and shared remarks concerning the holiday.
“I would like to thank everyone for putting this together and all of you for coming out to share this special moment with the town of Fairmont. Truly, Dr. King was a leader for us all,” McCree said.
The Public Schools of Robeson County, Robeson County Teen Community Emergency Response Team and Zakat Foundation of America teamed up to host the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at Lumberton High School. Teen CERT and Zakat Foundation members braved windy weather conditions with temperatures reaching into the 40s on Monday to serve the community and honor the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
During the event, which started at 1 p.m., cold kits were distributed to the public and hot meals served. Cold kits consisted of soup, cough drops, green tea and other items. The Teen CERT team also distributed bags with information about COVID-19 booster shots, and items such as stress ball and pill organizers.
“We have students here, seniors and groups from different organizations joining hands to do good,” said Nashat Abdelaziz, community organizer for the Zakat Foundation based in Lumberton.
Abdelaziz said members from Durham traveled to Lumberton to help serve in the annual event held by the Foundation.
He also said the pandemic and the cold weather could stop the organization from serving.
There were about 10 people served just after 1:30 p.m., and the CERT team’s goal was to distribute about 250 bags, said Linda Maynor Oxendine, area manager for Community Organized Relief Effort, which helped serve in the event.
“We’re just trying to give back because a lot of people have been affected [by hurricanes in Robeson County and COVID-19],” said Charles Hunt, a Teen CERT member. Lumberton City Councilman John Carroll also assisted in the effort in his role as safety officer with the Teen CERT team.
The Lumberton Christian Care Center is what came to mind when the members of two sororities sought a project in honor of the MLK Day of Service. The Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Kappa Alpha sororities each stopped by the Center Monday to make donations to the cause.
The Deltas donated 100 pairs of gloves and 280 bars of soap to the center.
“We are dedicated to service to the community — to providing resources that will empower and sustain our community,” said Vanessa Burton, president of the Lumberton Chapter of the sorority.
Viv Wayne’s position as a Delta and presence on the Lumberton Christian Care Center board of directors helped pinpoint the center’s needs.
“I know what’s lacking and I know what the board needs. Every opportunity I get, I make sure that I can get some of the things that they need,” Wayne said. “… I just like to give and help people that need it.”
Delta Sigma Theta is celebrating 109 years of community service and social action, Burton said.
“We are focused on scholarship, sisterhood, service and social action, and Martin Luther King said life’s most important question is ‘What are you doing for others?’ and we look at the Lumberton Christian Care Center as an organization that is focused on service towards others and we are about service,” Burton said.
In addition to the Deltas’ gift, Burton personally presented a check for $250.
Shortly after Delta Sigma Theta’s donation, the local chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha stopped by the center to drop off nonperishable food items, toiletries and cleaning supplies.
The sorority is no stranger to donating to the Lumberton Christian Care Center, but on MLK Day, the sorority was encouraged even more to give and “make and impact,” according to Musheerah Oli, the chapter’s president.
“Particular right now during COVID, it is important we feel to give back and plan on continuing to give,” Oli said.
Oli described the Christian Care Center as being an “asset” to the Lumberton Community.
“We just felt this is something that we should do as a chapter that’s in this area in Robeson County,” Oli said.
In addition to the donation to the center, the alphas donated “blessing bags” to the Lumberton and Fairmont police departments to bee distributed to the homeless.
Clementine Thompson-McCormick, director of the Center said was nice to get the needed donations from each sorority.
“We can continue to do our work,” Thompson-McCormick said.