By Stefanie Jackson – The Eastern Shore celebrated Community Unity and Martin Luther King Jr. Day virtually again this year with two events, one online and another on the radio, organized by the Eastern Shore NAACP, Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore, and Northampton County Public Schools.
Jane Cabarrus, director of the Eastern Shore NAACP, opened the online event Friday, Jan., 14, featuring presentations and music by Shore citizens and students. Teacher Cheryl Fenderson was the master of ceremonies.
Joshua Weeks, a freshman at Salisbury University, delivered the keynote address.
He shared one of his favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.”
“Love is the only way,” Weeks said. “Love is the only way to defeat darkness. Love is the only way to turn an enemy into a friend.”
“What kind of generation do you guys want to be?” he asked any students who were listening.
“Do you guys want to use love as a source to defeat darkness? Or, do you guys want to use hatred as a source to defeat darkness? You guys know which one is going to win,” Weeks told the kids.
“Do not let anyone tell you that love is a weakness. Love is a strength. Love is the most powerful force in the universe,” he said.
“And you might be asking, ‘How do I use love in my everyday life?’ … Let’s say that someone is bullying you or calling you names or picking on you. What do you do? Do you call them names back? Do you push them around?”
Instead, “give them kind words, give them encouragement,” Weeks advised. “Go get a teacher to help you, but do not ever retaliate.”
“Keep the spark of love within you and use it wherever you go.”
Other participants who made remarks or recited historical facts or quotes of King included Northampton schools Superintendent Eddie Lawrence, Congresswoman Elaine Luria, and students Abby Zodun, Ashley Zodun, Derick Hill, Samrit Kaur, James Thomas Applegate, Kiptopeke Elementary School kindergarten and pre-K students, and KES Principal Subrina Parker.
Musical performances included “The Star-Spangled Banner” by ninth grader Autumn Buckley, the African American spiritual “Wade In the Water” by KES students, and a rendition of “Amazing Grace” by the Northampton High School and eighth grade marching bands and the NHS chorus, led by music teacher Brad Ford.
The celebration resumed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 17, on local radio station WESR, in place of the annual Community Unity Day breakfast normally held at NHS, which was canceled this year due to COVID-19.
Participants included Northampton County Sheriff David Doughty, Eastern Shore Area Agency on Aging/Community Action Agency Executive Director Donna Sample Smith, retired registered nurse Joan Wilson, Virginia Organizing member Karen Downing, financial advisor Willie Randall, and Camesha Handy, member of the Living Word Church in Parksley.
Tracy Giddens-Jarrett, director of LifeNet Health, announced the recipients of the 32nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards: Donna Sample Smith, ESAAA/CAA, and Andre Elliott, executive director of the Eastern Shore YMCAs. The posthumous recipients of the Trailblazer Awards were William “Bill” Allen, a retiree of Northampton County Parks and Recreation, and Berkley Ashby, retired administrator and college professor.
The program closed with words by the Rev. Felton Sessoms and King’s famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” in which he envisions the day “when all God’s children – black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics – will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”