POWHATAN – The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was once again celebrated in Powhatan with a program of musical performances, spoken word, and awards honoring the achievements of local young people.
At least 400 people attended the ninth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Day Community Breakfast held Jan. 20 at Powhatan High School.
This year, the event’s theme, “Peace Begins with Me,” was conveyed by the more than 100 young people who participated through musical performances, skits, and as mentees in the program, said April Gray, who is co-chair of the event with Shirley Goins.
The focus throughout the program stayed on the youth. Rather than have a keynote speaker, the high school’s Diverse Hands at Work Club acted out several skits that ask people to examine how they think and talk about people who are different, whether that means another race, economic status, or physical ability. At the end of each skit, the students reinforced the theme, “Peace Begins with Me.”
The program also included a full line-up of musical performances by the Little Zion Baptist Church Youth Combined Chorus, PHS One Voice, PHS Jazz Band and the Powhatan Middle School String Ensemble.
“Powhatan High’s One Voice did an outstanding job with ‘Glory,’ and the high school jazz band is always phenomenal. We had an added treat this year – the middle school string ensemble, who were awesome,” Gray said.
Wilnesha Holman of Powhatan, was one proud mama during the program, with her four children singing with the Little Zion Baptist Church Youth Combined Chorus. She said she was proud of Victory, 5, Joshua, 4, Jacob, 10, and Caleb, 9, and appreciated the opportunity for them to show their talents, represent Christ, learn their heritage, and be bold in front of others.
Victory stole the show with her fearless solo performance of “I Am a Promise.” Holman said they were going into town and just continued to play the song repeatedly. Still, she didn’t realize the little girl had learned it that well in one day.
“She likes to sing. She sings in church all the time and all through the house. This brought me to tears,” Holman said.
Gray commended Victory’s performance, especially in front of a large audience at such a young age.
“It’s hard to believe that this was her first solo performance ever in front of a large audience,” Gray said.
Youth were also highlighted in a number of other ways throughout the program. Presenters who came to hand out awards or do special presentations all had mentees who spoke during the program. They helped read proclamations, announce this year’s scholarships, and recognize other honorees.
“I hope (the youth) received that message that ‘peace begins with me’ and that in dealing with their peers they will stop and think about that message,” she said, adding she hopes they can add a “new season of walking in peace with one another.”
Shirley Graves of Powhatan said she attends the event each year because it is a great way for people in the county to celebrate King’s birthday and enjoy an event that promotes unity. She said she loved the entire program and admired the hard work that went into it.
“To me having an event like this will bring people together in unity, and that is why I like the program. Dr. Martin Luther King wanted everybody to be together, regardless of race, nationality, whatever. He wanted everybody to come together as one,” she said.
Other highlights of the event included a delicious breakfast; a drive that brought in a generous amount of food to donate to the Powhatan Food Pantry; the presentation of the Honorable Margaret Manning Scholarship; presentations of the other MLK scholarships, and community service awards.
The organizers also held a special presentation to honor the memory of the late Pamela Cousins, Brenda McFarley, and Earl Royal for their tireless service to the annual community event. Family members of the three were honored and given awards in recognition of their loved ones.
Gray said organizers are grateful to all of the volunteers who made the program a success.
“Planning and organizing this program is a mammoth task. There is so much preplanning and work that is done behind the scenes. The dedication and hard work of committee members is commendable,” she said.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.