Noon Hour celebrates King in the age of Trump

Noon Hour celebrates King in the age of Trump
January 18
13:33 2018

It was a mix of celebration and somber realities at the MLK Noon Hour Commemoration held at Union Baptist Church on Monday.

The longest running commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the city has often been a place to celebrate progress towards equality, like when Barack Obama became the first black man to be elected and re-elected president. And there was plenty of jubilation this year from the numerous gospel performances by the Big Four Choir.

But there were also the more sobering acknowledgement that Donald Trump is now president.

“So many of the gains that were made have eroded,” Noon Hour founder Mütter D. Evans told attendees.

Trump’s hard line immigration policies, attempts to restrict refugees and foreign visitors and moves to limit civil rights enforcement combined with his racially inflammatory rhetoric have caused concerns among many African Americans and other minority communities.

Evans said it’s more important to remember King’s life and works now than ever before. She gave two “Dare to Make a Difference” awards to Victor Johnson, a school board member who participated in the sit-in movement, and former Mayor Martha Wood. Evans also honored former City Council Alderman Virginia Newell, who recently turned 100 years old.

After Wood accepted her award, the former mayor grew emotional as she talked about the “sacrificial service” of King, who was assassinated 50 years ago.

“I remember vividly the moment I heard the news of his death,” she said. “I was holding my not-yet three-week old daughter while shopping in the grocery store in East Bend, North Carolina, and I felt the world had crumbled.”

She said in the years since leaving public service, she wondered if her actions made any difference in the long run, but recent events have put things in perspective.

“As the clock of history has turned back, I have come to understand with appalling clarity that the struggle for freedom and justice continues day in and day out,” said Wood.

The event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Gerald Durley, pastor emeritus of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. spoke against the weakening of the Voting Rights Act, ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and actions that will cause millions to lose health insurance. He said that he disagreed with Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again” since the country wasn’t that great for African Americans in the past. Durley said he’d rather see the country become greater than it’s ever been.

“The long arm of justice will swing back and bring a degree of sanity to an insane, divisive world,” said Durley.

At the end of the service, local NAACP President Rev. Alvin Carlisle told attendees voting on the state and federal level will be vital to changing the country’s direction.

“In 2018, we must free the hands of our government,” he said.

After the service, the Phi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha served soup to attendees.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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