Kent County community working to keep King legacy, black history alive

Sankofa drummers, from left, Zachary Brown, 13, Brandon Carrion, Noah Carrion, 2, Terrance Alston and Maurice Lebron at rehearsal on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — The challenge is to keep the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s inspirational dream from fading.

That challenge gets a little more difficult with every year that passes since Dr. King was killed by an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.

There are hundreds of people who are determined to keep Dr. King’s dream of equality achieved through nonviolent civil disobedience alive and well for all walks of people today.

“Dr. King’s message is still relevant. Very relevant,” said Rev. Rita Mishoe Paige, of the Wyoming United Methodist Church. “We cannot forget the dream. We’re still trying to make the dream a reality — even today.”

So is Nathaniel Williams, who is the committee chairman of the 34th annual Zeta Rho Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast.

Mr. Williams said his organization is expecting a crowd of more than 800 to gather at Dover’s Modern Maturity Center — at 1121 Forrest Ave. — on Monday for the 34th annual MLK Prayer Breakfast.

That is one of many events scheduled for Monday and through February to honor Dr. King and Black History Month.

Mr. Williams said one of the prominent things that Dr. King spoke about was his desire to have people of all races and backgrounds come together and looked upon as equals and that’s what makes this event so important.

Delaware State University Early High School student Eldray Gladney performs during the musical prelude to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program at Delaware State University last year. The annual program, co-sponsored by the Inner City Cultural League, will be held Monday.

He added that the main goal of the prayer breakfast is to raise awareness among today’s youth of the struggles that minorities had to overcome during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

“We just want to keep Dr. King’s message out front and center so that people don’t forget,” he said. “There have obviously been a lot of changes recently when it comes to politics.

“So we want to get the message out to young people so we can help them understand how people had to struggle for things in the past so they won’t take it for granted.”

Ronald Price chaired the MLK Prayer Breakfast last year and said, “It’s a day on and not a day off. The breakfast is there to remind us of everything that Dr. King has done for us.

“Some of the same issues that he was dealing with back then, we’re still dealing with today. We still have a long way to go, but the breakfast brings everyone together to remind us of the teachings of Dr. King.”

For John G. Moore, vice president for United Way of Delaware, Dr. King’s dream is one that remains relevant today.

“Dr. King’s dream was for a better world for all people so that as he mentioned in his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, ‘… We will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last, free at last … Thank God almighty we are free at last.’”

Reuben Salters, former Dover city councilman and founder of the Inner City Cultural League in Dover, will take the

Reuben Salters gives instruction to members of Sankofa performers before rehearsal on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

league’s Sankofa Dancers to Delaware State University Monday in an annual program that honors the national holiday.

The program, co-sponsored by DSU, will be held at noon at the Education and Humanities Theater on DSU’s campus at 1200 N. DuPont Highway

This year, the keynote speaker will be the Rev. Ellis Louden, pastor of Mt. Zion AME Church, the largest African Methodist Episcopal Church in central Delaware.

“Delaware State University has been part of the Greater Dover community for 125 years, and as such, is honored to join with the Inner City Cultural League of Dover in celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Carlos Holmes, DSU spokesman.

“As a state institution of higher education and as a historically black university, DSU has an important role in keeping the memory and legacy of Dr. King alive.”

In addition to the Sankofa Dancers, DSU’s concert choir will perform at the event, which is free and open to the public.

That’s just one of many events where the cultural league’s young members will perform in the coming weeks, Mr. Salters said.

Young people are the stars of the Lake Forest School District’s annual community celebration, which will be held in February.

Started by former district leader Dan Curry more than a half dozen years ago, the event showcases the talent of the Lake Forest schools with roughly 100 students now participating.

Lake Forest School District students perform at the 2016 Community Celebration of African American History. (Submitted photo)

“Dr. Curry wanted to sponsor an event to celebrate African American History Month. When he first began we had DelState involved and a variety of different venues in the area as well as our schools, but all of our schools didn’t necessarily have a part in the performance,” said Lake Forest School District Superintendent Dr. Brenda Wynder, who has been on the organizing committee since the event began.

“But as it evolved to such a great community event, we transitioned it about four years ago when I first came over to the district office to being only our students and staff.”

“We have everything from solos to praise dancing, poetry recitation and then our choruses and choirs singing.”

The high school’s marching band drum line and percussion ensemble performed last year, earning rave reviews.

“Even our early childhood center performs and (those students) are 3- and 4-year olds. We do everything from the youngest to our eldest,” Dr. Wynder said.

Last year, songs included, “Amazing Grace,” “Kumbaya,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” The Greatest Love of All” and “Sir Duke.” Performances were Motown-inspired and modern, with the high school percussionists doing “Stinkin’ Garbage.”

The preschool sang “This Little Light of Mine.”

“It puts a spotlight on history. I think for the students, they are introduced to music, as well as literature that they may or may not be familiar with, and it actually gives the students a chance to showcase other genres of music,” Dr. Wynder said.

“Life Every Voice and Sing” is always a part of the show, during which little-known facts about famous African Americans are shared.

At the “Honoring the Journey. Our Vision, Our Voice, Our Legacy” celebration, which includes a dinner for the community, the district announces its Lake Forest Obsidian Spartan Award to honor a staff member who has worked with African-American and minority students to make a difference.

Participating students and staff members eat free. Profits from the 5:30 p.m. dinner benefit the district’s Child Nutrition Program scholarship fund for graduating seniors.

Admission to the 6:30 p.m. show, in the high school auditorium, is free.

“So everyone is winning,” Dr. Wynder said.

Staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at 741-8230 or mfinney@newszap.com.

Managing editor Ashley Dawson can be reached at 741-8233 or adawson@newszap.com.

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