King#039;s birthday celebrated in style

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Black or white. Young or old. Man or woman.

None of these labels mattered to those who came together Monday to honor Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and lasting vision of equality.

Operation Be Proud observed the holiday by hosting its 12th annual memorial celebration at Ohio University Southern. More than 100 people of mixed ages, races and religions attended.

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"All of what Dr. King stood for are things we are still working on because we do not have equality among women, race and others," Robert Pleasant, chairperson of the celebration, said. "We still have work to do. When you read Dr. King's words you see the vision, and we are not there yet."

The emotional program began with a prayer vigil outside the school as the U.S. flag fluttered in the January wind.

In light of the recent rumblings of war, Pleasant said it was especially important for everyone to come together as one.

"We want to pray for our nation, our young people, our military men and women and the community as a whole," he said.

Although many of those gathered were born years after King was assassinated in 1968, his dream remains timeless.

Ironton High School student Daniel Murphy participated in the program and knows how special January 20 is.

"This is time to honor a man who fought for the privileges that I have now," he said. "Because he started the fight, it still carries on today. I feel privileged to be able to honor a man like that."

Michael Turner, an 11-year-old student at Ironton Middle School, said he came to learn more about King, but already knew that "he was a preacher and talked about freedom of equality for everyone."

Ironton resident Bonnie Ford Holmes, a member of Quinn Chapel AME Church, said she believes OBP's message is especially important for today's youth and echoed Murphy's sentiments.

"I count it as an honor and privilege to celebrate the legacy of such a great man and the causes he stood for," she said.

Program speakers included Mayor Bob Cleary, OUS Dean Dan Evans and Samuel Moore, a teacher at Cammack Middle School in Huntington, W.Va., and pastor at Full Gospel Assembly Church in Huntington.

Moore told the story of how his father insisted that his children attend white schools even before integration.

"My father always said, 'I will not guarantee you will learn what my bosses children learn, but you will be exposed to it.'" Moore said. "That is all we can ask for is the opportunity."

Pleasant said they were honored and proud to have Moore as the key note speaker because he is an outstanding educator, preacher and truly loves young people.

Overall, the celebration has grown tremendously since OBP started it 12 years ago, he said.

"It started off as something that was really just focused here in Ironton," Pleasant said. "This year we are getting the Tri-State involved so it can be something for everyone. In order to achieve Dr. King's vision it takes all of us working hand in hand to make a difference."