When we arrived people were just starting to gather in their seats, and during the wait there was a traditional African drumming group, one of the members we talked to was from Nigeria. One of the drummers, we found out later was form Nigeria. Before the speeches started, everybody joined in singing "The Black National Anthem" Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing, By: James Weldon Johnson.
Lift ever voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resounds loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of hope that the present has brought us;
Facing he rising sun of our new da begun,
Let us march till victory is won.
After that there were many key note speakers. Some from the NAACP, the mayor, and awards given out for children who entered the MLK Essay contest.
The most memorable speech, however, was given by a historian and genealogist by the name of George Geder. He talked about Dr. Kings "roots" more than he talked about Dr. King himself. Dating back to his great-grandparents, Dr. King had a long legacy of people who devoted themselves to the greater good of society. Most notably, are his parents: Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams, who were both social activist and pastors. Without this rich family life, George Geder argues, Dr. King would not of been the civil rights activist we celebrate today. This reminder of Dr. Kings history, served as a reminder of the importance of looking at the full picture. I think, Dr. King would agree that he is not the only person to be remembered, but the people who stood behind him, and the people we work hard to help everyday.
After the ceremony, we went to lunch with Robert and planned our long term project and gathered together what we had planned for the rest of the day. Those of us that had something to donate brought what we could, and we went around to local charities and donated goods to them. We went to Salvation Army, Open Hands, and St. Vincent de Paul.
All in all, while the day was low-key, it felt very productive. We helped out good charities, bonded as a team, and were reminded of why we celebrate MLK Day in the first place - to remember those who have made what we have today, and to look forward to those who we can help tomorrow.