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The Villages
Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast helps keep the dream alive

Lew Jones
Lew Jones

“Where do we go from here?” Bridgeport at Miona Shores Villager, Dr. Lew Jones, asked as he surveyed more than 620 people at the 12th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Awards Breakfast Saturday morning at the Savannah Center. “This group just keeps on growing — where will we ever put more people in the future?”

Jones thanked everyone on behalf of the MLK Commemorative Awards Committee, of which he is president. “This year we will award scholarships to the most diverse group of young students ever. We have an Asian woman, Hispanics, African-Americans and Caucasian students who will be going off to Harvard, Columbia, the University of Florida, Florida State and other institutes of higher learning — all helping to keep the dream of education , hard work and peace alive. Jones thanked a large number of donors who contributed substantial financial support to the endeavor and recognized high school principals, and clergy from local Catholic, Protestant and Unity churches, Temple Shalom and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship for attending..

Joe Flynn and Roger Novak screened a video they produced of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic world-changing march from Selma, Alabama, to the State capital in Montgomery; of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s speeches to the nation before and after he federalized the Alabama National Guard, and of Governor George Wallace and police brutality against the peaceful civil rights activists. “We have lived for 345 years under slavery and segregation,” Dr. King said. “We are tired. Now is the time!” The group commemorated LBJ’s signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voters Rights Act, which permitted citizens of all races to cast their ballots.

Students received scholarships at the event.
Students received scholarships at the event.

Members of the MLK Commemorative Committee awarded $2,300 scholarships to 10 local high school seniors who, in addition to excellence in academics, paraded long lists of achievements in athletics, music, performing arts, volunteer work and community service. Committee members included Helene Ziegler from Tenple Shalom; Mary Curd and Jan Barone from St. Timothy’s Catholic Community; Judy LaFaivre from ‘Where in the World Travel,’ Cathie and Bob Janson from Hope Lutheran Church; Dr. Bob Kimbrough from North Lake Presbyterian Church, a retired dentist who, at 93, is the most senior member of the committee, and Margaret Squire from St. George Episcopal Church.

The three scholarship recipients from Belleview High School are Joryan Hernandez, Javan Latson and Michelle Le; and three award recipients from Leesburg High include Amari Garner, Chyanne Harrison and Nicole Bigio-Nieves. Brandon Stone-Gordon and Aaliyah Triumph from Lake Weir High School, Destinee Forester from Wildwood Middle High School and Alexia Character, from The Villages Charter High School, also received scholarships.

Rev. Bob Perry
Rev. Bob Perry

Keynote speaker, Rev. Robert Perry, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church at The Villages, gave an inspiring account of  Dr. King’s influence on our society.

“There is no doubt that Dr. King’s life has impacted all of us in innumerable ways. How has your life been impacted?” Rev. Perry asked. He cited people in the audience who had marched with Dr. King. Born in Birmingham, Rev. Perry recalled vividly the 1968 funeral of Dr. King in Tuscaloosa. His wife, Karen, remembers being stared at in Birmingham in the 1960s when she went to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with her girlfriend. “Back then, it was highly unusual to see someone like Karen, who is Caucasian, attending a play with a friend of African-American heritage,” Perry explained.

Rev. Perry cited Bible verse Micah 6:8, which calls for us to act with justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.”God wants us to uphold the rights of all people,” he said. “In Amos 5:24, God tells us to let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream. We can all help keep Dr. King’s dream alive if we act justly, identify those who are in need of justice and advocate for them — helping the widow and widower — adults who are alone in the world, fatherless children and the poor — people who are trapped in the cycle of poverty. We must look into the darkness and choose to act — not just bury our heads under the covers hoping those in need will just go away. To wait often means never — justice delayed is often justice denied. We speak the word on Sundays — let us go out and do good on Monday. We must stand against evil, wickedness and injustice.”

Lew Jones (center) meets with his high school classmates from the Crooms Academy in Sanford: Edward Blackshear, Katheryn Alexander, Alder Craig, Dorothy Curry.
Lew Jones (center) meets with his high school classmates from the Crooms Academy in Sanford: Edward Blackshear, Katheryn Alexander, Alder Craig, Dorothy Curry.

“Let us embrace Dr. King’s concept of non-violent resistance,” Rev. Perry continued, “and choose not to participate in that which is evil.” He quoted lines from Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Stockholm, Sweden: “I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice,” Dr. King asserted. “Sooner or later all the peoples of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace. . ..After contemplation, I conclude this award . …is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time — the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. I accept this award with abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I have the audacity to believe people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their mind and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up.”

Walter Martin and wife Janice. Martin was honored for his work on behalf of the MLK Committee.
Walter Martin and wife Janice. Martin was honored for his work on in the community.

Ashland Villager, Walter Martin, was honored for many years of outstanding community service. He is a past president of The Villages African-American Club, the 3C’s Ohio Club and the Polo Boosters Club. He serves on the CDD5 Board of Supervisors, has performed with the Way, Way Off Broadway Players theater group and has taken part in many other charity and service endeavors.

The G.U.E.S.S. choir from Lake Weir High School, which was scheduled to sing gospel music, was absent because three of their four members have the flu, but Dave Olson sang heartfelt renditions of ‘Precious Lord, Take my Hand’ and ‘Goin’ Home,’ from ‘Porgy and Bess.’

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