King’s impact remembered by admirers

Jan. 20, 2014 @ 08:12 PM

RIDGEWAY — Martin Luther King Jr. was commemorated at Ridgeway Missionary Baptist Church on Monday with a mix of music, prayer, preaching and politics as residents gathered to remember the civil rights leader.

Attendees heard a recording of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as they filed into the sanctuary and took their seats. They were there for one purpose, although they brought different experiences.

A few young faces were evident among the mostly adult crowd. Helen Robinson attended with her great-great-niece, Azariah Stevenson, a student at Marian Boyd Elementary School who, at 7, was one of the youngest people in attendance. Azariah was shy in describing her reactions to the service, saying it was “good.”

Perhaps the oldest attendee was Rosa Paschall, 94. She said she remembers the time when blacks were restricted in movie theaters and couldn’t sit at the lunch counter in Roses. Martin Luther King Jr. Day “means everything,” she said.

Fred White, a retired educator himself, said Paschall was one of his teachers. “She was a great teacher,” White said.

As for the commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr., he said, “It tells us what we can do if we come together.”

Mary Williams, a trustee at the church, said, “It’s important to bring the community together.”

The church supports the Warren County Free Clinic, senior citizens, voter registration and other community efforts, she said.

After the Rev. Milton Solomon, of Pine Grove Baptist Church in Macon, offered the call to worship, the MLK Community Choir, wearing black robes with red surplices, sang “Joy Unspeakable,” the first of several selections they presented during the service. They also led the congregation in singing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and “We Shall Overcome.”

Presented as the main speaker of the day, state Sen. Angela Bryant said, “Every day God gives us new mercy. We can trust God in this search for justice.”

Bryant said Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the one national holiday focusing on the rights of the people.

“We still have much work to do in our communities,” she said.

Bryant referenced a King speech in Rocky Mount she attended and told the audience she was the only black child in the seventh grade in 1963 as Rocky Mount’s public schools were desegregated. She closed with several quotations of King.

“We cannot allow Martin Luther King’s life to be in vain,” said Rev. W.T. Ramey III, pastor of the host church.

In a series of questions, he asked the congregation who in North Carolina turned down the Affordable Care Act, cut food stamps and took other actions he said negatively affect the black community. He noted the progress made over the past half century and praised Bryant and state Rep. Nathan Baskerville.

“One by one, our rights are being taken back again,” Ramey said. “When we sing ‘We Shall Overcome,’ let us sing and march to the polls and elect people like Sen. Bryant and Rep. Baskerville.”

Taking part in the commemoration were pastors from a number of area churches, including Rev. Milton Solomon, Pine Grove Baptist Church, Macon; Rev. Mary Somerville of the host church; Rev. Randolph Alston, Dickies Grove Baptist Church, Henderson; Rev. Ricky Bell, Jordan Hill Baptist Church, Macon; and Rev. Nicole Jones of the host church.

Katrina Harris, a member of the Ridgeway Missionary Baptist Church congregation and also a student at N.C. Central University, said the service was meaningful.

“It’s important for my three sons to know history so they can be better citizens,” she said, “and the younger generation can get a better sense of how great they can become.”


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