Martin Luther King Jr. honored in Augusta ceremonies

Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 4:37 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012 2:28 AM
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The Rev. Larry Fryer peppered his sermon with a plea to the people.

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People respond as keynote speaker Reverend Larry Fryer of Hudson Memorial C.M.E. Church speaks.  Emily Rose Bennett/Staff
Emily Rose Bennett/Staff
People respond as keynote speaker Reverend Larry Fryer of Hudson Memorial C.M.E. Church speaks.

In Augusta, decades after Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life for justice, peace is far from a reality. However, the problem isn’t always black and white.

At the pulpit in front of roughly 300 people settled in the pews, Fryer held up the The Augusta Chronicle’s Sunday Metro page. On one side was an article and photo of the Augusta Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and next to it was the headline for another article, “Daytime shooting kills man.”

The ironic juxtaposition showed a brokenness in the community that goes against all King wanted for the future, Fryer said.

“That tells me we have some serious problems,” Fryer said. “We are turning our back on the dream.”

He talked about the hungry, the suffering, the teen mothers, the violent youth and asked the community to reach out. Celebrating the life and legacy of King should not be reserved for one day, Fryer said, but should be realized by helping people all year.

“I’m happy to see you here, but what are you going to do tomorrow?” Fryer asked. “We’ve got to get out of our comfort zones and go in these communities to help these people. They need you.”

He led the 21st annual Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at First Baptist Church of Augusta on Monday. This year was the first time his group incorporated various faiths and churches for a citywide ceremony.

He said the collaboration was necessary, especially because of the racial divide that still exists in the city.

“Something that is keeping us divided is distrust,” Fryer said. “Whites are afraid of blacks, and blacks don’t trust whites.”

For many in the audience, the event was a way to show respect for a legacy that has touched all lives in the U.S. regardless of race.

As she left Fryer’s service, Lisa Tillman, a member of Usher Union of Georgia, said she hoped people would carry the spirit of King’s holiday through the year.

“You don’t even have to know the person,” she said. “He gave so much for us, he gave his life, and we need to honor that by helping people, too.”

On Monday evening, the Augusta NAACP’s 38th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Fund Banquet was held at the DoubleTree Hotel. The theme was “Affirming America’s Promise.”

“We are here to enlighten, encourage and keep Dr. King’s flame burning,” said Dr. Charles J. Smith, the branch president.

The banquet’s keynote speaker was Alethea R. Bonella, the former Southeast region field director for the NAACP.

“I am most excited about the community coming together like this,” she said. “To commemorate and celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King.”

Bonella hoped to encourage the community to get involved. She said there is divisive and negative talk now thanks to economic issues, and she hoped to remind the community of King’s legacy.

“We have no one else but ourselves,” she said. “We have to come together and step across those color lines.”

Jacqueline Fason was 9 years old when King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. She remembers coming home to her mother in tears and the sadness in her Augusta home.

“I feel if I don’t -- or we don’t -- celebrate today, then all of his work and efforts would be in vain,” Fason said.

Staff Writer Summer Moore contributed to this article.

AWARDS

In honor of people in Augusta who carry out Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, the Martin Luther King Memorial CSRA Observance Committee presented awards at the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

For his civil rights work, James Kendrick was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Lifetime Legacy Award for his efforts in promoting racial harmony in the city.

Four judges — State Court Judge John Flythe, Superior Court judges Carl Brown and Michael Annis, and Chief Magistrate William Jennings — the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta and Richmond County School Superintendent Frank Roberson were also recognized with drum major of justice awards. A representative received the award on Roberson’s behalf.

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my.voice
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my.voice 01/17/12 - 08:44 am
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Thank you, Dr King, for

Thank you, Dr King, for making a difference.

Chip 'TheDixieDove' Shirley
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Chip 'TheDixieDove' Shirley 01/17/12 - 01:43 pm
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A Walk With MLK-My proudest
Unpublished

A Walk With MLK-My proudest day.
One bright morning when I was a 12 year old boy living in Sandy Springs GA, my mother June announced to my younger brother and sister and me that we weren't going to school that day. She told us to dress nice and get in the car. We only found out as we were leaving the house that we were going to march in Martin Luther King's funeral procession.

It was a short quiet drive. I don't care for crowds and I was worried that this was going to be a long hard sermon to listen to, but I knew we were doing the right thing. We had mostly grown up in the poorer parts of various southern towns and we were used to both colors of people sharing the streets, but this was an amazing feeling to be the only people of one color we saw in such a large crowd. I wasn't surprised at how warm and comfortable it felt. And I realized immediately what a good idea Momma had to come there.

The entire walk and service seem like a beautiful, if melancholy dream. Never had we felt such an outpouring of peace and goodwill through such sadness. All of us have shared our memories over the years, many times. The whole event passed like a song, but midway through my younger brother, only 8, began fidgeting, being so short he was staring at people's stomachs and bored. Then slowly and quietly, without a word, a tall strong man standing behind Steve reached down and picked him up over his head and gently placed him on his shoulders so he could see. Steve was quietly mesmerized and still says it was the most amazing experience he ever had to be lifted up over the crowd and to watch the whole panorama from his private box.

It was a small piece of heaven on earth that the reverend brought to all of us there that day. My mother and sister and brother and I all agree that was our proudest day. Not for anything we've done to help with King's cause, but what we did for ourselves by being there. It changed us. It was a religious experience.

When I see pictures of the good doctor and his statue on the mall, he is very real to me. He is still alive, I'm sure of it.

And I wouldn't be at all surprised if he came back one bright morning.

Pops
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Pops 01/17/12 - 02:05 pm
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The same statements are made

The same statements are made by the speakers every year. Nothing changes.

Chip 'TheDixieDove' Shirley
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Chip 'TheDixieDove' Shirley 01/17/12 - 04:38 pm
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A great deal has
Unpublished

A great deal has changed....You're right about it being a slow long haul though...

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